Saturday, March 19, 2011

in defense of teachers

I've seen this little promo vid floating around on quite a few art blogs and sites lately, and I thought I'd post it up here as well, since I too am a teacher, and have been for a good portion of my life. I don't post about it much at the blog, but sometimes I think it wouldn't hurt to give folks some perspective and see where we're coming from.

When I was younger, from grade school on up through high school, I was always drawing, and showing my peers how to draw things. I wanted to do something with art in college, and ended up taking the art teacher route.  There are days when I absolutely love my job, and there are times I wish I could be alone, working on my own art for eight hours straight while listening to some good music and sipping some good tea.  I tell people that choosing teaching was good for me, 'cause I know I'd probably be a hermit with a long, scruffy beard and no social skills whatsoever, not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's your thing. Teaching brought me out of my shell (and my nickname in college, thanks to friends, was "turtle boy" for good reason).

One thing that sometimes makes me laugh out loud, and sometimes irks the bleep outta me is when someone says "teachers get paid too much, especially for having summers off".  It's rare to hear this (my wife jokes with me about marrying me for the money) but it does happen.  The first thing I think is wow, that person has not a single clue. The second thing I think is OK then smarty pants, you take a walk in my shoes for a week and see how you feel by three-o-clock on a Friday afternoon.  Better yet, I'll give you a day. I bet you wouldn't last. I'll bet you couldn't. You see, with teaching, at least with elementary art you play the role of not only educator, but disciplinarian, babysitter (yes, there are children who can and do, above the age of five, and sometimes close to seventeen, absolutely act like babies, and often), psychotherapist, custodian, comedian, entertainer, you get the picture. I'm not whining and in no way would I want anyone to feel sorry for me, but that's the truth - ask any one of us.  I'm not asking for extra money either, if you think that's what I might be getting at here, though I wouldn't complain if we got a little extra. That might explain why I teach after-school programs four times a week in addition to teaching summer classes every year as well.  This is in addition to the many extra hours I spend after school at meetings, hanging up work at school and elsewhere, and on Sunday afternoons, preparing for the week ahead, without pay, while still feeling behind on all things school-related. Again, I'm not complaining - just stating my case and giving you a little glimpse into my world. Some teachers I know have the luxury of being married to a wealthy spouse who is the breadwinner of the house.  Since I'm the main source of income at my home, we don't/can't live in a house, which is, in many ways, alright by me.  At least not at the present moment, and not around Northern Virginia. The great thing is, teaching can be an adventure every single day, and there are many moments that make you want to jump with joy, and there are times you just want to curl up into a fetal position and vanish, and while we might not be on top of things 100% every single day, many of us do the very best we can. Sure there are those who are pretty bad teachers who hate their jobs and don't care, but you will find that in every profession unfortunately. Some are downright awful, and I remember quite a few when I was young, and I'm sure you do too. So, nobody should ever generalize because it's usually the ones who like to flap their yaps the most who know the least, I've discovered.  Anyhow, if you see a teacher, thank them (and there are a lot of good people who do thank us, which I'm very thankful for), or at the very least, make an effort to refrain from saying we get paid too much ("especially for getting those summers off!").  Seriously, that does nobody any good. In the meantime, check out the promo above for a very thought-provoking documentary I saw called "Waiting For Superman".  The animation by Sol Linero is great, and the story above is something I think most teachers should aspire to.