“Teaching is a calling”…& other Smarmy Excuses

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Yesterday, I was at my local discount grocery store (because yeah, teacher). Before I had completed my perusal of the first isle, I spotted a familiar face – one of my building’s regular substitute teachers was there with a friend.

We chatted for a bit & before long, the topic of teachers leaving Oklahoma came up. The friend (whom I had never met prior to that encounter) asks, “Why do you think that is?”

Now, Dear Reader…you know me well. And in case you’ve forgotten, my Midwestern upbringing and Scots-Irish heritage tends to make me rather up front. Not rude, just not one to waste time. So, my answer was rather short. I replied, “Pay is a huge factor. A single teacher with two kids qualifies for food stamps here. Not a whole lot of incentive to stay if the neighboring states are paying $10-20,000 more. If it weren’t for my spouse, I wouldn’t have ever come here to start with. Not for this pay.” 

I honestly expected a thoughtful nod, a friendly “see you around” to the substitute teacher, & to continue shopping with little memory of the encounter after some time goes by…Dear Reader, I was wrong.

This complete stranger looks at me and states, “But teaching is a calling. People teach because they want to make a difference. Getting paid more doesn’t make them a better teacher.”

I kinda expected some shirtless, bear-chested, Redneck to pop through the off-brand cereals instructing a passer-by to, “Hold my beer.”

*Side note: At this point in my retelling of this story, my spouse was starting to give my “the eye” having many a personal experience with my decidedly Irish temper. However, being as this was a total stranger…I bit my tongue.

Eyebrow raised, I simply stated, “Other things certainly factor in, but you must agree that a hungry child is going to be distracted by that hungry belly instead of learning at their full potential.”

He nodded in genial agreement.

“So, wouldn’t a teacher who is rested after a single 50-hour work week be a better teacher than one who has to put in an extra 30 hours on top of the original 50 at a second job?” I continued (my perplexed tone and “are-you-an-idiot-or-just-that-selfish” look starting to send the stranger’s internal warning system on alert). “With a Master’s Degree and more than a decade of experience under my belt, surely I should be able to afford to send my kids to college…right?”

I think I scared him a bit…because at the moment I turned to reach for the shark shaped cheese crackers my youngest asked for, he walked off. 

Dear Reader, I was dumbfounded. How in all that is good in this world can we continue to allow folks to hide behind the excuse of education being a “calling” when society continues to add more and more requirements before allowing someone the title of “teacher”. A century ago, maybe; but not in 2017. 2017 requires 4 years of collegiate coursework (minimum), months of internship, hours and hours of continual professional development one in the position (without pay for your time involved), and no overtime pay. That sounds more like a pharmacist or a lawyer, not a nun.

Education is NOT a calling any longer. It is a profession & as such deserves professional compensation reflecting the requirements associated with the position. 

I was too polite to tell that stranger at the store my unvarnished feelings (& I’m still being polite here), but Educators, the world needs to see what your true value is.

…but it won’t until you deny it those smarmy crutch comments like “calling” and “service”.

Chicken Little Out

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