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Teaching complicated profession that deserves community’s support

When I graduated from Lindsey Wilson College, I had big dreams and plans concerning my future. The possibilities were endless. Or so I thought. Instead of immediately getting a job where I wanted, I ended up taking a job in a school system, just to pay the bills.
It did more than pay the bills, though. It opened my eyes to the behind-the-scenes world of teachers, administrators and staff of a school system, to what a thankless job it can sometimes be, especially when opinions are formed without knowing much of how those employees really spend their days.
Parents and other people from the outside, including myself before I worked in the schools, might not have a clear understanding of what it takes to be a school employee. Some may look at my husband, Dan, a high school math teacher, and see him getting nearly two months in the summer plus a month of Christmas vacation, not to mention various holidays and professional days ‘off work’ scattered throughout the year, and wonder about what he could possibly complain. Luckily for him, not much. He has a full and validated contract in his school system (which happens to be in Kentucky), and he has a pay scale that’s comparable to most others in the state, plus fully funded health insurance coverage.
But we have teachers here, in this county, who have worked for years without a contract and have been stagnant in their pay scales. And instead of a community championing the very people who spend the most time with their children, I’ve seen some of the most hateful comments directed at a group I feel is so largely undeserving of such disrespect.
Why do teachers need a contract? Unlike other jobs, if a teacher is let go at-will in the middle of a school year, for whatever reason, that teacher is usually not able to find another job until hiring opens at the end of a school year. If a teacher who is without a contract is let go, say, in January, that would be four months of unemployment or taking another temporary job just to feed their families before they can even begin looking for another job, and then after hiring, months until the new pay year starts. It’s very difficult to get hired into a school system, and contracts ensure that teachers are going to have their jobs for at least a full year. It’s not a matter of greed; it’s a matter of stability. Who among us doesn’t want that?
Teachers are just people who happen to have a love of a subject taught in school, enjoy teaching children and want to take a job working with those two things. They attended a four-year college, had on-site training in local school systems and still managed to graduate with that kind of passion. I saw a lot of my fellow students dropping out of the education department at LWC because it was too rigorous or not what they expected. So the ones who earned their teaching certificate already are proving their desire and commitment to education.
First and foremost, teaching is a job. It is something that is so regulated and mandated, sometimes the passion for the subject becomes secondary. It’s a job, like I took, to pay the bills. It’s a job like the greeter at Wal-Mart and the President of the United States. We all may have an opinion of how they should do their jobs, but until we walk in their shoes, we have no idea what it would really be like.
Every teacher I’ve known, including my husband and some of my best friends now, spends their summer vacations either preparing for the school year by attending professional development courses or just managing to keep on top of state curriculum standards. And now they have the tedious task of keeping up with all the legislation from No Child Left Behind. They spend their nights and weekends grading papers, making tests or otherwise participating in some ‘mandatory volunteering’ for something related to their schools.
Yet, still, we demand more and more of our teachers and cannot tolerate their simple needs?
My support, as a teacher’s wife and a former school employee will always be behind the faculty and staff of any school. I know what a difficult job it is to stand in front of 23 or more students and work tirelessly to keep their attention, not only so they can learn and become intelligent individuals, but also because their employers and their district demand high-achieving test scores to guarantee funding. I know what it is for parents to sometimes blame teachers for their child’s poor performance when it might serve them better to look in the mirror for a place to lay blame. I also know what it is to struggle to reach students who are unable or at times downright unwilling to comprehend the subject matter, and the time that must be spent to work with those students so they don’t fall behind, sometimes to the detriment of the students who are achieving as expected.
It’s a complicated job that takes more dedication and patience than just about any other profession. It’s one, to be honest, I didn’t enjoy and knew I had to leave. Which is why I know the teachers who are still committed to working in already difficult conditions, without the nonsense concerning contracts and unfair labor practices, are ones who are in it for the kids.
Let’s stand up and be a community that’s in it for the teachers. It’s the least we can do for all they’ve done for us. After all, if it wasn’t for a teacher, you wouldn’t be reading this now.