Sunday, February 12, 2006

On being noble

I'm not. Noble that is. I am a teacher because it's what I do best. I don't tune pianos or fix broken teeth or help people get loans for a new house, because those are not the things I do best.
Reading EdWonk's post about an ad for NYC teacher recruitment got me thinking. Whenever I tell folk I'm a junior high school teacher, they tend to look at me with a bit of awe. Sometimes they pat me on the back, and tell me how much we need good teachers. Sometimes they tell me how they could "never do it" and don't know how I can. Some make remarks about how difficult it must be and how I must have so much patience. I have one friend who keeps telling me I should teach at the local community college, because all my knowledge is being wasted on the thirteen-year-olds.

Running through all of this is the thread that what I do is somehow in-between real work and volunteerism. This idea that I'm sacrificing somehow.

I hate that.

I really hate that. I know, most people think they're giving me a compliment, but what's going on underneath is that idea that teachers are a special breed. One that gets its satisfaction not from money or wealth, but from doing good deeds in the world. By thinking of teaching as a "calling" rather than a profession, we are more put into the ranks of nuns and missionaries, rather than highly trained professionals. Isn't there a vow of poverty that most people "called" to the church take? I didn't take any such vow.

I love my job. I'm good at it. But my job is not to impart knowledge. My job is to help my students think. To help them learn. To engage them in higher order thinking skills.

This part will sound corny, so bear with me. My job is one I believe in (even with the stupid NCLB, politicians who have a voucher agenda, and parents who treat me like a servant). I like my job. I don't question the ethics of what I'm doing. I'm never bored. I worked hard to get where I am. I'm still paying off students loans that were more than my first year's paycheck (and I went to a state university). I laugh almost every day. I get to be the center of attention much of the time.

All good things. Everyone should have a job they like as much as I do.

But. Just because I like my job, and it engages me, does that mean I have to give up the financial rewards other professionals earn in other careers?

Where does it say that one doesn't have to make as much money if one has a job one believes in?


graycie said...

Bravo! Couldn't have said it better myself -- You should submit this to The Carnival of Ed, doncha think?

Journal Freak said...

I hope you don't mind, but I put a link to your blog on my blog. If you want me to remove it, please let me know, and I will (right away). Thanks.

Not Quite Grown Up... said...

I agree with Graycie - wonderful post. I was just writing something for my edu. class about how I hated the idea of teaching as a "calling." Teachers are professionals and should be treated as such. You articulated it all much better than I could in your post.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

No no no, darling, it's not the "teacher" part that gets them as much as the "junior high" part. Tell people you teach 6 year olds, and they think, "Well I could do that," (even if they couldn't.) But, rabid, drooling, oozing, shrieking, lumpy, gawky, junior high kids??? The horrors that flash before the layman's eyes makes you St. Teresa the Little Flower. Admit you like 'em that way, and they think you're unbalanced.

Trust me. Been there.

Formidable Flea said...

I taught Middle School kids and I even got some - "Well, that's a noble profession..." Ugh! As she peered down her nose at me. Most of the time it's the pats, though, that do me in.

BTW: DO feel called to teach, myself (or maybe it's just me justifying loving my job when most people hate theirs), but I happen to think that pastors and various other callings are WAY underpaid, as well :) They also have higher degrees most of the time that they have to pay off!

Cara Lietuva said...

Well, I'm an editor, after a year as a copywriter, a year teaching freshman English at a state university (worst experience--19 year old girl rolled her eyes at me when I talked about an assignment; second worst experience--hearing about the trials and tribuations of an adjunct English professor, AKA my office mate, a woman with a PH.D, making 26K a year just like me and on a 2-year contract, no benefits), five years teaching online for a university, and six years as an advisor. Four months into this editing job, I find that I hate editing. But I also hate grading. But I love being around high school and junior high kids. They're so damn weird! I make less than my sister who teaches elementary school in Salem, Oregon and I have a master's in English. So there. A teacher's salary looks pretty good to me. Could I handle the disciplinary problems? (and the grading?) Is it worth going back and getting certification? I'm plagued by doubt. I read your blog and think, damn, I couldn't handle that....

sexy said...