Few professionals are as repudiated as teachers. The guy on every street corner has a bad teacher story. But if you look at the amount of time spent with teachers, the average person clocks in with about 18,000 hours of their pre-adult lives at the mercy of their teachers.
Children are disciplined, instructed, coached, educated, and in extreme cases, even potty-trained by their teachers. It would be as rare as a lightning strike for any individual to not have at least one “my teacher doesn’t like me” story.
I can remember a junior high teacher who scared the living daylights out of me and every other child in her classes. The teacher, whom I will refer to as Ms. Meanie, was as hateful as they came. All of the students sat in their desks at military attention as we even hesitated to breathe for fear it would attract her attention.
I was in a 9th grade geometry class, and Mrs. Meanie called on me to put a problem on the chalkboard. We were studying the Pythagorean Theorem (the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.) It was an easy concept to comprehend. And I had the problem correctly solved on my paper. But in my fears of being called to the front of the class by Ms. Meanie, I transposed some numbers on the chalkboard causing my answer to be wrong.
I finished the problem and turned around only to be looking straight into the face of the Wicked Witch of the West. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she said with a cackle to her voice, “Try again my little sweetie!” At that moment I thought I might faint, and I hoped to die.
Somehow I was able to stagger back to my desk and make it through the class without wetting my pants. For the rest of that period I did not move my head. I prayed that she was done with me. And thank heavens she moved on to the next poor soul who unwittingly breathed out of rhythm.
It is my conjecture that every student has had a Ms. Meanie moment, and it is alive and well in their cerebral cortex. And when those adults hear the words “teacher raises,” they have that throwback Thursday moment and think to themselves, “Hell no!”
When it comes to compensation for inarguably one of the most important professions, John Q. Public is indignant. Mr. Public generally fails to recognize the parallel between competent, bright teachers and salaries. Perhaps, it is his disdain for that one Ms. Meanie in his life. Or maybe he has been conditioned to believe that teachers, like mothers, are supposed to teach unconditionally, because they love their children so much.
The earliest teachers were spinsters who rented a room from a local in their town. They had few expenses and no children of their own. They were content with their simple lives and the children who brought joy into their otherwise modest existence.
And this trend of old maid school teachers continued for generations. The teachers had no personal lives outside of their profession. Teaching by day and grading papers by night filled the void in their otherwise lonely lives. Pay wasn’t important.
But life happens and things change. Teachers began to marry and have their own children. They developed lives outside of that one room schoolhouse. They wanted homes, and they wanted things.
Unfortunately, their paltry salaries could afford them little of nothing. They could not be independent and had to rely on the income of their husbands. But John Q. Public didn’t care, because the status quo was set in stone. Teachers were supposed to be teaching out of the goodness of their hearts and their love of children.
In the public eye, teachers who wanted compensated for their dedication and hard work were greedy and heartless. It was unbecoming for a teacher to even suggest that she would like to be paid for the job that was supposed to be so rewarding anyway.
Who were these women who dared to be so bold to assume that they should be reimbursed for their time and effort? Everyone knew that the joy of teaching their little darlings should, alone, be enough to fulfill a teacher’s life.
And John Q. Public decided that he didn’t like this newly liberated storm of teachers. He looked at them and saw literally thousands of Ms. Meanies. There was no way he was going to regard these teachers with the same approval and respect as other professionals.
The present day teacher crisis is far more complicated than the historical progression or regression of teacher wages. It involves apathetic communities, social experimentation, and poor teachers. There is plenty of blame to go around, and I will spread it around in Part 3 of this series.
…………………to be continued