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A repost (with some edits) of something I wrote last year.  

I've been teaching since 1997.  Currently, I'm an elected union official.  I serve as a member of my teaching union's executive board.  I  helped negotiate our current contract and I'm part of the current negotiations team that is about to sit down with the Board of Education to craft a successor agreement.  According to Senator Jim DeMint (Republican Teapartystan) and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, I'm a thug.  Join me after the fleur-de-kos to see some examples of my thuggery.

I wake up every day at 5:20 so I can have time to get ready and then have breakfast with my wife and children.  I leave for school at 7:00 and drive 30+ miles to work.  My 2003 Civic has 113000 miles on it and I'm hoping to get another 60000 out of it.  I wish I lived closer to school, but this is where we could afford to live on my salary.  That's 300 hours a school year (12.5 days) commuting.

I've worked a second job and tutored in the last few years, but gave those up when it became clear that I wasn't home enough with my family.  We've just had to cut back a little bit.

I spend hours at home during the week and on the weekend grading tests and papers.  I make sure to return assessments the next school day (except AP tests and papers get back in 48 hours which is why I often spend 4-6 hours grading on the weekend).  

I meet with the high school administration twice a month, before school, to help address issues that impact the quality education that we deliver.  We sometimes disagree, but we're friendly and we all have the same view that it takes teamwork to create and maintain the excellent school atmosphere that we have.

I wrote 17 letters of recommendation for seniors last year and I have 14 on deck this year, not to mention a letter for a former graduate who asked me for a letter to support his application to medical school.  Not form letters, mind you, but personalized accounts of their scholarship and achievements as my students for 6 years.

I sit on a scholarship council that gives need based awards to graduating seniors. The scholarship was set up to honor the memory of a teacher who died in a plane crash many years before I started working here.

I perform in our faculty talent show every year (and I've won twice). The money raised (over 5 grand, last year) will go to another scholarship program.  This one, too, was set up for a teacher who died just a few years ago.  

I give up my prep period (for no pay) for a few days every spring to help the 8th grade prepare for their radio show project.  I help groups practice and give them feedback on their scripts (they usually need some work, but the end result is always really great).  

My students have earned over 1000 awards on the National Latin Exam.  Two have won scholarships because of their achievements.  One of them is going to become a doctor.  The other has just started at Harvard Law school.

Another former student entered graduate school in Latin last year.  I'll be heading to the Classical Association of Atlantic States meeting next month to watch him present his first professional paper.  I think my thuggery must have had some kind of impact on him.

I've written here about my (and my fellow teachers') attempts to help a severely depressed student.  I'm still in touch with him and I've recently learned that he has entered Columbia University for his undergraduate studies.

I taught another who had visions of killing herself.  I made sure that she was seeing someone and she's (I pray) getting better.

I've been inspired by my C students who have stayed with Latin for 6 years.  If they won't give up, I won't either.

I've helped a student who was thrown out of her house because she loved another girl.  I made sure that she knew that she was always welcome in my classroom.  I've made that clear to all of my students.  In my classroom, they know that they will be called to task, publicly, if they make a remark that disparages someone based on race, religion, gender or sexuality.

I run a classroom in which intelligence and hard work are rewarded and 'nerd' is a compliment.

I make children smile and be proud of who they are.  I encourage them to see their potential and then help them to reach it.

I work hard to stay current with my profession and I look for inspiration in other teachers, both at school and here on Kos.

I'm a product of thugs and I wouldn't be successful if not for them.  Mrs. B (3rd and 5th grade) , Mr. L (drama) , Mr. C (pre-calc) , Mr. J (band and orchestra), Mrs. B (spanish), Mr. R (English), Mr W. and Dr. R (social studies) Dr. S-L (Latin) and many others worked magic on me.  Mrs. P, Mrs. C, Mr. W, Mrs. C, Mrs. S, are colleagues whom I strive to emulate.  

So, yeah, I'm a thug.  I work with thugs and I sure as hell hope that my three sons end up being taught by thugs, too.

So Senator, Governor, and the rest of you right wing morons, you can't say that you like teachers but hate the teachers' unions.  We're one and the same.  Out of all the different groups involved in education, I say without reservation that the thugs are the ones who are most looking out for the needs of the children.

Originally posted to TeacherH on Sun Sep 16, 2012 at 09:41 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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