To Teach, or Not To Teach …

Words of gratitude from some of my students. They rule.

That is the question. And how appropriate for a certified English teacher.

“But wait,” ye faithful readers say, “Your bio tells us you are a private percussion instructor. How can this be so?”

Have you read the news lately? Do you know how badly our school systems are struggling under budget cuts, not to mention “No Child Left Behind,” and the most recent strings of legislative union and funding attacks?

I am a private instructor. I give lessons and charge by the hour. I am also an unemployed certified secondary English teacher. Why?

Because there are no jobs for new teachers in our schools. And even if there were, why would I want to be part of that system?

I teach privately, because if a student or parent doesn’t like me they can opt out at any time. My pay as an instructor is not based on student test scores, it’s based on my own efforts and abilities. I do not live in fear of being terminated by a board, buried under paperwork and red tape, or constantly bombarded with new responsibilities without more pay. All of my students get individual lesson plans and one-on-one instructional time, because my class size is determined by me and not the state.

So I teach privately to help pay the bills (most of which were ironically incurred in pursuit of my teaching degree), and volunteer my time at the local school district.

“Wait, huh? Volunteer?”

O, ye of little faith.

I am one of those poor souls who loves teaching. My calling is working with kids. I am blessed and cursed.

And as a volunteer, I am respected. People say that it’s a shame I don’t get paid what I’m worth. But the fact is, none of our public school teachers are getting paid what they’re worth. And now what little financial incentive they did have to be in the teaching field is about to be taken away by the newest legislative trend of “budget cuts.

I understand our country is in debt. I understand the need to cut back costs and increase income at a state and federal level. I’m a taxpayer too, folks. So are all of the teachers I know.

But why are we cutting out of education AND renewing the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich (which does not include teachers, by the way)? Why are we setting stricter limits on our “broken” educational system AND sending bailout money to bankers and private corporations so they can have their bonuses? Why are we worried about keeping pay high on Wall Street to keep and attract talent BUT not applying the same idea to keeping and attracting good teachers?

Apparently I have stumbled upon the solution to the problem as legislators see it: Teachers should teach because they like it, and that enjoyment should take the place of paying them for their services.

That’s what I do. The school can’t pay me, so I teach on my own time and my own dime. Just because I like it.

O, if only the world, state governments and our public schools were filled with people willing to work for free!

I guess our budget problems will never go away then, because there will always be someone out there selfish enough to demand compensation for their time and talent. Soon it won’t be possible for teachers to collectively do so, but that’s OK. Workers fighting for their own livelihoods are really just a loud distraction anyway, right?

There are admittedly problems in our educational system: No public or private entity is entirely issue-free. However, in the case of public education’s current systemic issues, rarely are the teachers themselves to blame. In most cases they did not make the rules, they just have to play by them if they want to teach. So how is it fair that they are under attack for a broken system they did not create?

I believe my friend Shakespeare has it right again: “… In the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason …”

Do you know where I learned to love Shakespeare? Public school. I sincerely hope my kids have the same opportunity someday.

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8 thoughts on “To Teach, or Not To Teach …

  1. Pingback: Insert Obligatory New Year’s Post Here « Faith and Stage Fright

  2. great blog. I learned to love shakespeare from my dad…who started out as a child in a poor dirt farm..so poor they picked cotton, and carried their shoes to the one room school house steps and put them all there…he and all the brothers graduated with advanced degrees from college – and went on to educate other’s children…I taught until the system drove me out…not the kids..and returned to teach again 4 more times out of a sort of moral obligation…only could last 5-6 years at a time before pulling my hair out…and run screaming out of there into business – and finally research which I felt may have actually done some good….the system isn’t the best for kids…generally the schools are a wreck at this time…so teach Shakespeare yourself….and so glad someone else realizes each day is the Great Adventure – all over again!…( and Montana is soooo great) Phil

  3. A unionized public employee, a member of the Tea Party and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the tea partier and says,”look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie.”

    Here’s my latest fun thing for teachers; have you seen it before?

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