In 1969, when I started my first teaching job, I made $7,350.00. In present day value at 3% cost of living that’s $25,436.00. My father-in-law used to tease me that I had the summer off. (Actually I taught summer school t
o make more money.) He changed his criticism when he learned what I actually did for that salary:
- Worked from 7:00 to 4:00.
- Taught 5 classes of 25-30 students.
- In teacher-speak had 3 preparations, meaning three different classes (Humanities, Novel or basic sophomore English, for example) translation: lots of work the night before.
- Read, corrected and graded papers for these 150 students—translation, worked on the weekends.
- Presented long works of fiction—translation, read on the weekends.
- Had to take an extra assignment—like coaching or mentoring, a rule at my school. Translation: went to games and dances and tournaments on the weekends.
- Inserted school business and paperwork into each day: attendance reports, notices to student nurse, counselors, deans; reports to principal, department chair; parent-teacher meetings and phone calls; frequent teacher meetings.
- Created curriculum: tests, assignments, evaluations and interactive learning.
But here is the bottom line for being a teacher—and if the following was true for me, it’s even more true for any teacher working in the classroom today: you don’t know what will come in the door each day you are working.
I taught at Bloom Township High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois. My school was a microcosm in the early 70s—Italian Americans, African Americans, whites from the south moving up to Chicago for better jobs, children of families whose presence in the suburb for years gave them ownership. Result: problems—riots, fights, rule-breaking, school closures for safety reasons. A policeman in the hallways. Staggered scheduling to avoid having too many students in the building at one time.
And what did we teachers do? We worked, we taught, we followed all the changes and we did everything we could to help our students. Everyone one them:
- the girl in Humanities that told me right out in class that when my husband traveled he was having affairs—interesting way to get out of talking about THE SCARLET LETTER.
- the boy who came to my classroom every morning and flirted with me in a joking way, but I was only 23 and he was 17.
- the 9th period coalition whose goal was to break me down in front of the class so they criticized everything I said, questioned everything I tried to teach them for weeks. I did break down.
- the kids coming to school sick, unfed, unclean, angry; kids sleeping all through class; kids telling you to f-yourself;
- the kids who needed love as well as education, who needed someone to stand up for them and give them a chance to get on in the world.
Teachers do that for kids, every day. And they aren’t someone else’s kids—they are your kids. And I don’t care if the politicians in Wisconsin secretly set themselves aside because their children go to PRIVATE schools. Believe me, these same problems occur in those schools and sometimes the teachers are not as well educated and prepared to deal with them. PRIVATE schools don’t always have as many requirements for teachers because they often cannot pay them as well.
Teaching is a rich and varied profession. Teaching requires dedication and desire—like medicine—but doctors make a whole lot more than teachers do.
Twenty years ago there was much talk about teachers not being paid enough, not being valued enough.
Now we are forcing teachers into the streets to ask for what they are owed.
STAND FOR TEACHERS and UNIONS and BARGAINING RIGHTS.
STAND FOR NURSES. What do they do?
- Nurses run hospitals, work crazy shifts, are there when your mother or father needs to urinate or be suctioned or saved by a Code Blue.
- Fireman try to keep your house from becoming a total loss.
- Policemen—enough said.
For those folks who don’t want to pay these members of our middle class, there’s an answer—go live off the grid. Go to some mountain in Montana or Wyoming. Teach your children yourself. Protect your house and don’t even think about needing a hospital.
SUPPORT PUBLIC WORKERS, they work for you.
PS I taught for five years. When I stopped to raise my children, I had only a $2,000 increase in salary.