Starting this blog has been on the back burner for a long time now – between planning a wedding, getting married, buying and fixing up a house, teaching all new classes, being on the school improvement team, planning a science trip to the Galapagos Islands (more on that later), attending meetings and completing interviews for the Democracy School Initiative, attempting to see my friends and family once in a blue moon, all while trying to keep my sanity on very little sleep – I really needed a kick in the butt to get going. That kick in the butt came in the form of a feeling- feeling completely and utterly undervalued.
Luckily, I don’t feel undervalued by my husband, my family, my friends, my coworkers, or the majority of students and parents – in fact, I am supported in more ways than I can imagine from them. This feeling of being undervalued came in a different form. As an educator, my career is my life. Any educator that cares even a tiny bit about their students would say the same. We say they’re “our kids” and we care for them in more ways than we can count. But as an educator, I feel that I am constantly defending myself.
Over the past six months, this feeling of being undervalued has grown. It started small, maybe a silly comment from a stranger about my excessive “time off” or maybe it was the fact that I worked sixty hours in a week but was told that I shouldn’t be tired because my job was “easy.” It grew even more throughout the election season. Politicians threatening budget cuts and decreasing educator’s incomes because we “get paid too much” for what we do. Betsy DeVos being elected as Secretary of Education – a woman who knows little to nothing about education – was a massive slap in the face.
The final straw came from a conversation I had with someone who I thought understood and appreciated my career, or at least…me. This person told me that my job was a breeze. According to this person, I only worked from the moment the kids walk in my class until the second they left at the end of the day. I get far too much time off, don’t have to meet any outcomes to prove myself, and get to teach the same thing five times a day. “How hard could it possibly be? Don’t you get two off-periods to basically do whatever you want?” My heart sank. Partly because I felt insulted and belittled, but mostly because of the sad realization that this is how educators are viewed by so many.
After the initial feelings of sadness passed, the frustration began to build. I thought back through my day, almost as if I needed to prove myself to…myself? I started at the beginning.
- 5:00am – Wake up.
- 6:00am – Leave for school.
- 6:45am – Arrive at school.
- 6:55am – Make all my copies for the day, only to have the copy machine jam 3 times.
- 7:15am – Finish copies and prep for the first hour lab experiment.
- 7:30am – Rush to make my oatmeal and continue prepping for my other classes.
- 7:40am – Student needing extra help walks in. Prepping stops so I can help her.
- 7:50am – Warning bell rings and things are still not prepped for 6th and 7th hour. I’ll do it during my 4th hour prep period.
- 7:55am – First hour Environmental Science starts.
- 8:50am – My first “prep” period begins. This is a study hall supervision. I use this time to get some grading done.
- 9:20am – Realize I still need to modify the quiz for my co-taught class. I quickly get out the 11 IEP’s and make sure I cover all modifications necessary.
- 9:50am – Third hour Environmental Science begins.
- 10:45am – My second prep period begins. I run to the copy room to copy the modified quizzes and run back to finish prepping for 6th and 7th hour.
- 11:15am – Fire drill. Help file all the students down the stairs and then outside.
- 11:35am – Get back inside from fire drill, and Accelerated Biology immediately begins. I still haven’t finished prepping for 6th and 7th hour.
- 12:40pm – Lunch starts. I run into the kitchen, warm up my leftovers, and then run back in my room. I have 25 minutes to finish prepping for 6th and 7th hour and eat my lunch.
- 12:45pm – My usual lunch crew shows up. I notice one of them doesn’t have a lunch. I ask him if he forgot it and he says to me quietly that there wasn’t any food left after he made his little sister’s lunch this morning. I give him my lunch.
- 1:05pm – 6th hour Integrated Science starts. This is my co-taught class. I have 11 students with different learning disabilities, 2 students with 504 plans, and 2 students with Behavioral Intervention Plans. My paraprofessional is home sick with her daughter, so I send out an SOS email for someone to come administer the quiz while I take the IEP/504 students to another room to read theirs aloud. Another teacher gives up his prep period to help me out. He gets it – he’s been there.
- 2:00pm – 6th hour ends, but only after I have written 2 referrals for students who have gotten into an altercation- their families come from rival gangs in Rockford.
- 2:05pm – 7th hour (and last class of the day) Integrated Science begins. Things are going smoothly.
- 2:10pm – New transfer student walks into my room. I missed the heads-up email I received during the lunch hour. I try to get him settled and caught up while trying to make sure the rest of the students are getting their work done.
- 2:55pm – School ends. I sit down to finish answering emails, filling out SLO forms, and grading. I see an email stating I have a last minute IEP meeting tomorrow during my 5th hour Accelerated Biology class since it’s the only time mom could come to the school on her lunch break. I have to totally revise my plans for the next day so that the sub can manage.
- 5:45pm – Even though I’m not done with everything, I will myself to leave.
- 6:45pm – Finally get home.
This is not an exaggeration. This is standard. Do I resent it at all? Absolutely not. I have the best job in the world – but how dare you try to make me feel like my job is a joke. I teach three different branches of science, I feed students that don’t have food, I give students school supplies when they can’t afford them on their own. I help comfort students going through hard times at home. I try to mold my students into problem-solving, kind humans so they can enter the real world as confident citizens. Do I get paid extra for all of this? Overtime? No. Is it worth it? Without question.
After sharing this story with my fellow teachers, we decided that now is the time to start sharing these stories with the world. I hope this blog can bring awareness to those that need it, help to those that want it, and connections to those of us that share similar stories. We ARE important. The friendly conversation you have with your student might be the only positive interaction they get all day. Continue doing what you do and continue representing educators as the hard working people that we are.
With love and hope,