Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sometimes we get paid to do this

This week last year I wrote the following note on my Facebook. In light of this day has rolled around again this year, it bears reposting. 

As a teacher, one of my pet peeves is people who think that teachers get a paid vacation over summer.  We don’t.  Some of us get paid year-round, because our school districts have opted to pay us our salaries over 12 months instead of 10, but we are not getting paid to be on vacation.  We are getting paid for the work that we finished doing in June. Many of us also work a second job over summer or during the school year in order to get by.  For those of us with kids, we are home with the little ones in order to save the cost of sending them to daycare, which would outstrip the financial benefit of having a summer job. 

While some teachers get paid every two weeks throughout the year, there are many districts throughout the country where this is not the case.  In my district, where teachers are not paid year-round, the first real paycheck of the year is a kind of annual ritual. Not getting paid from July 3 through (essentially) October 8 can be a recipe for financial disaster, but it can also be an artful demonstration in corner-cutting.  As it’s an election year, and there’s an exciting new trend of “blame the teachers for the poor state of American education” going around, I thought I would share some of the things that teachers actually do with our first real paychecks of the year.  This is not exactly everything that I have done with my first paycheck this year, it’s more of a “greatest hits” of the past eight years worth of first-weekend-of-October activities.

Now, I understand the counter-argument here.  It goes something like this: “You people can’t budget your pay across 12 months?  How irresponsible!  How can you possibly be trusted to teach our kids?!”  To this I say, I DO budget my money, and I can manage to pay myself over the summer because I transfer a certain amount of money into a separate account that I pay myself out of every two weeks over the summer months.  But every year, in September and October, there is a three week gap between our first paycheck of the year, which is partial and based on how many days we have worked in pre-service, and the second full paycheck, which arrives in the beginning of October.  Experienced teachers can plan ahead for this, but a new teacher, one who has just started in the system, has been in school for 32 working days (plus five paid federal or local holidays) and has only been paid once.  For many people, this is a financial disaster.  What’s more, for a third year teacher, one who has not received an appreciable raise since starting out teaching as a result of suspended COLAs and a freeze on step increases, this is a nightmare.  And I don’t even have kids of my own.  So, here it is, a list of things we do with the largess of that first paycheck.

1.     Happy hour.  Have two beers instead of a Diet Coke.  Consider actually ordering food.  If you don’t drink, you probably bought a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (not store brand) ice cream or a nice bar of chocolate.
2.     Put gas in the car.  There were three teachers at the Exxon station across from school today.  All of us coasted into the parking lot on fumes.
3.     Go to grocery store. Buy items that one has used up from the store cupboard (canned goods, flour, sugar, pasta, spices that one has run out of, restock TP). Purchase lunchmeat to replace PB and J sandwiches that one has been eating for the first three weeks of school.
4.     Buy an actual cut of meat from a butcher instead of ground beef / turkey from the supermarket.
5.     Go to the Farmer’s market and buy the nice-looking fall fruits and veggies that one has been lusting after all month.
6.     Go to Target. Purchase household supplies that one has been diluting since the middle of September (Windex, bathroom cleaner, Tilex, hand soap, laundry detergent, stain remover, bleach) and other expensive but optional items (paper towels, kitchen sponges, shaving cream, hair conditioner, Q-tips, hand/body lotion, Britta filter replacement cartridge, printer ink).
7.     Pay VA personal property tax bill on the car (Due Oct 5).  The sticker runs out on November 15, but the bill is due on October 5 unless you want to pay the late fee.
8.     Begin to pay of any credit card debts accrued over summer.
9.     Begin to pay the bills that one has strategically had come due at the end of October (car insurance, etc.)
10. Repair major and minor household appliances that have been broken since August.
11. Take car to the mechanic over the funny knocking sound and or smell of gasoline that one has been ignoring since school started.
12. If applicable, take the toll road to work instead of the back roads.  Breeze through the toll gate without worrying that the little red light will come up when your EZ-Pass goes through.
13. Raid the late “Back to School” sales in the dollar bins in search of school supplies that you KNOW your classroom will be out of at the end of the year. This is for my peeps in elementary school classrooms who are given a ration of supplies that can’t possibly last the entire year, especially if your students forget to put the caps on the markers and glue sticks.
14. Oil change / tire rotation – 2,000 miles overdue.  Luxury item?  Car wash.
15. Go to the dentist. Reschedule the appointment that you cancelled in the first week of September because you couldn’t afford to go and wait for the six-week reimbursement period.
16. Dry cleaners. Take all of the clothes in that you haven’t had cleaned since the start of the school year.
17.  Buy belated birthday cards for anyone whose birthday unfortunately falls between September 8 and October 8.
18. Pay the PTSA and school “social committee” dues that one has been avoiding for five weeks.
19. Begin saving for next summer.  This includes saving for the tuition for graduate school.  Since step increases and COLAs are frozen, the only way to make more money is to pay to take more graduate classes.  This despite the fact that the school district (which is overwhelmed by the layoffs of the central office staff) is over a month late in coughing up the partial reimbursement for the classes I took this past summer.  I paid my tuition in May, submitted the grades and reimbursement request in August, and if I’m lucky, the district will pay their part of the tuition (which covers about 60% of one of the three classes I took) on October 22.
20. If enough money is left to cover October bills and food, indulge in one of the following luxuries: manicure/pedicure, eyebrow waxing, massage, bottle of nice liquor, dinner out with friends, weekend road trip, new pair of shoes or sweater, or a cup of coffee not made at home.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I don't suck at this

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a conversation with several of my colleagues about Baseball's opening day.  For one, an avid Red Sox fan, Opening Day marked the beginning of the end of the school year.  "You know what it means to me?  It means that I have arrived at the point in the school year at which I can start counting the number of papers that I have left to grade in hundreds instead of thousands."

"That's the most depressing thing I have heard all week," said my good-natured colleague.

"No it's not," I insisted "it's hopeful."

The prospect of having thousands of papers to grade at the start of the year is daunting.  Hundreds of papers are manageable.  It's really just a matter of setting aside the time, adding as much caffeine as is needed, allowing for occasional procrastinating visits to Sh*t My Students Write for purposes of encouragement and letting fly. It falls nicely into a pattern that the author of not that kind of doctor has called the Five Stages of Grading.

When I first started teaching and I went home over winter break with a pile of ninth grade essays on To Kill a Mockingbird, my dad looked skeptically at me and asked me, "Does everyone spend as much time grading as you do?" and then hurriedly followed that up by saying "I am not saying you're doing it wrong, I am just asking if it takes everyone this long to get it done."

I got the idea.  He was asking, in his own Dad way, "Do you just suck at this? Or does this really take this long?"  He meant well.  There's a good reason why the obvious answer, that it does, in fact, take this long to teach kids how to write properly, was not immediately apparent to him.  It's because we often hide the amount of time that we spend grading out of a fear that the amount of time we spend working outside of the school day is in some way our own failure.  I always felt as though there was someone out there had figured out a shortcut to reading and marking papers and I was just ashamed of the fact that I hadn't discovered the secret yet.

It has taken me a while to accept that I do not actually suck at grading.  I am not doing something wrong.  It just takes a really long time to do it well.  A really long time.  This is what I find revolutionary about that a couple of groups of teachers in New Jersey and Michigan - two states where teachers have been under a full assault from all sides - are doing by staging grade-ins. They are sitting in public and doing the things usually done around their kitchen tables at night after their kids have gone to bed or in the local Panera Bread (free WiFi, cheap coffee) on Sunday afternoons or on the subway train after work or wherever else one might find them outside of school hours.

The fact that we can't get done everything that we need to do during the school day is not a failure on our part.  It is a reality of the job.  Here's the other reality: as class sizes increase year by year and as state testing systems pull writing off of their assessments because it's too expensive and / or time consuming (ya think?) to grade all of the student responses, English Language Arts teachers are the only ones actually teaching writing. I know that this is a huge generalization, and there are plenty of other content area teachers who are, against all odds, teaching kids to write on lab reports, research papers and explanations of math problems.  In my ideal world all teachers would teach reading and writing.  Why?  Because kids have to encounter language skills in multiple contexts in order to actually be able to utilize them when they need to do so. 

Again, back to reality.  I know how long it takes to grade this stuff.  And I totally understand why someone who does not think that it lies within their content-area job description to teach writing would not do so, especially if their class sizes have increased by 15-20% over the last five years like mine have.  It's hard work, and it's not particularly familiar territory for a great many teachers.  Despite this fact, the sense among ELA teachers that we are now the only ones teaching kids to write only adds to the pressure to provide meaningful feedback to students.  And as there are more and more students in my classes every year, it becomes more difficult to provide the kind of feedback my students need.  It also means that students think that pesky things like mechanics only matter in English class (if even there).  In case you need a reminder of why little things like this matter, see Taylor Mali on the subject.

Teaching kids to write isn't easy, cheap or convenient for anyone, but I wouldn't be doing this job if I didn't believe it to be necessary and important.  I suppose that what I want people to understand about the time that teachers put in after school hours is that this is an important part of children's educations. I also want them to know that as teachers, every time someone says "Oh, of course teachers put in some time outside of school, but..." we cringe.  We cringe because we know that whatever idea they have in their heads about what the work we do outside of school is like, they really have no idea. They have no idea at all how long it takes to provide feedback to 150 14 and 15-year-olds on what it is that they have written.

Unless teachers make the invisible hours spent grading, planning, writing IEP goals, responding to parent phone calls and e-mails, writing curriculum and tutoring kids one on one visible to those who would blow that work off as insignificant, we can't expect anyone to understand.  We can't expect anyone else do do it for us.

The problem is that teachers working alone at home around dining room tables are very easy to ignore. Speak. Write. Make your voices heard. And when people tell you that they know what it is you do with your time, say very politely, "No, I'm sorry, you do not.  Here is what I do.  Here is why I do it.  Thank you for listening."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Open Season

Ah, spring is in the air, the cars are covered in pollen, teenagers everywhere are rediscovering the importance of deodorant and it's time to start TESTING SEASON!  So begins the annual spring ritual of the American public school in which, right at the exact moment when children begin to stare longingly out the window and think of summer we plunk them down in front of a three-hour-high-stakes-paper-and-pencil nightmare and say "Good luck kid!  Show us what you've learned!"

Now, I understand that tests are an important part of any educational system, and that assessments are necessary to drive instruction, to measure student progress, and to determine if kids are learning what we are meant to be teaching them.  I get it.  As an educator who never knew what it was like to teach in the world before No Child Left Untested - I mean "Behind" - I totally understand.  We have to do it.  Not just because someone else says we have to do it.  It's good practice, in principle at least, to use assessment to meaningful purposes.  My primary beef with our current species of assessment has very little to do with principles and a great deal to do with the practical facts of the case: many of the assessments themselves are poorly designed, and the data that comes back is lacking critical information regarding what kids have an have not learned.  We pour our kids into a can of alphabet soup - MSA, HSA, STARR, AP, IB, SAT, ACT, PSAT and the most ironically named standardized test on the planet, the Virginia SOL - and what we get in return is...very little.

What's worse is this: the pressure to push numbers causes everyone, teachers, administrators, parents, and kids to do exactly that, to push numbers.  Which would be great if it were our job.  But it's not.  Our job is to actually educate children.  And not just to educate them to sit a three hour exam.  Our job is to educate children to respond the the ever-growing challenges of an increasingly complex world that requires critical and analytical thought if one is to remain socially and economically relevant. 

As the preponderance of sentence fragments in the preceding paragraph might indicate, I get a little fired up about this.  Here's why: testing does weird things to our brains.  Let me explain.  Several years ago, in the run up to state exams, I had perhaps the most vivid nightmare that I have ever had.  Period.  I had a tough class that year.  In my group of 30 tenth graders, five kids had been arrested for various offenses before spring break.  Almost half of the students had diagnosed learning disabilities and the average kid was reading on a sixth grade level.  So I was in full on prep mode from day one.  I thought it was our only chance of getting them to pass.  To push the numbers just a little bit.  Enough to make AYP anyhow.

My class of misfits was doing alright until about two weeks before the test when they collectively seemed to lose their damn minds.  On the Sunday night before testing week, I drifted off to sleep doing some reading for my own coursework and suddenly I was in my classroom.  I found myself facing the usual suspects of my previous five years of teaching.  Every kid I had ever taught with a tragic life history, all of the kids who were so ADD that they couldn't remain seated for 45 minutes, every gang member, everyone who had ever been suspended, hospitalized, expelled or arrested was there.  It was like Dangerous Minds on meth.  That was when the fire alarm went off.

I collected up my things, grabbed my sunglasses and rosters and said something like "Alright folks.  Let's head outside. C'mon now."

But they didn't move.  They just sat there, being themselves, refusing to move.  That's when I started to raise my voice.  Somehow, even before I could smell the smoke in my nostrils, I knew that it wasn't a drill.  I knew that it was a real emergency.  After much screaming, threatening and wheedling on my part, a few of them started to drift out.  The boys, that is.  Finally, after what seemed like decades, I was left facing only a small group of girls, ranging in age from 14 to 17.  I could feel the room warming up, see the smoke getting thicker, hear the sirens wailing away in the parking lot.  Just when I thought about physically dragging them all from the building, they all simultaneously stood up like some kind of cheer squad: in unison, and turned 90 degrees to the right.

They were all pregnant.

This feeling of overwhelming terror came over me and I remember thinking "Oh my God.  They're doomed.  Not only are they doomed for this generation, but for the next generation as well.  Because of me.  We are all deeply, deeply screwed."  Not to rely on a narrative cliche, but that is when I woke up in a cold sweat. 

This is what testing does to us as teachers.  It drives us to the very edge of reason and, because of the fact that many of our jobs now rest on our ability to make numbers move, we attach so much importance to that one three-hour exam that we forget about how little control we have over the myriad factors that determine how kids do on these tests.  We are trying so hard to do everything, to solve every problem, to cure every ill, that to do just the best we can with the time we have seems like a colossal failure.

I am a strong believer in the fact that all teachers should watch The Wire.  It won't make you feel any better about the job - it will probably make you feel worse - but it will at least give you some context to smile wryly when things get so insane that you think you must be living in some kind of bad teaching movie that is being filmed in real time so that at any moment some director is going to pop out and say "Great!  I feel like we have covered the hardship portion of the movie, let's move on the the 'innovative teaching method that inspires these hard-nosed kids to love you and succeed in life' part!"

Season four of The Wire is set in the Baltimore City Public Schools, and in one memorable scene one of the characters' little brothers, his backpack too large for him, is shuffling home with his older brother from school.  The older brother asks what is going on in school, and the younger one says "MSA prep.  Teacher say if we don't do good someone gonna get fired." It's heartbreakingly perfect in that the kid realizes that the numbers are all that matters.

Right before testing season, one of the first year teachers, who is also a former police officer named Prez "can't believe the pointlessness of teaching test questions and wonders how it will ever assess what the kids are learning. Grace [another teacher at the school] explains they're not really assessing the kids - if the scores go up the administrators can say that the schools are improving. Prez realizes he's been here before: they're 'juking' the stats, just like in the police department. 'Making robberies into larcenies.  Making rapes disappear.  You juke the stats and majors become colonels.'"

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"If you are traveling with a child..."

Thanks to a concordance of a teacher workshop and a three day field trip with 21 teenagers in New York City (on St. Patrick's Day, might I add) today is my first day "off" work in the last 13 days.  Yesterday, at the end of a 10 hour day of supervising students at an extracurricular activity one of the other teachers was talking about her decision to go part time and her department chair's insistence that she not work full time hours for a part time salary.  She was being told to go home and take care of herself.  Speaking of her department chair, she said "He told me, 'You know how, when you are on an airplane, they say 'Should oxygen masks be required, they will drop from the ceiling.  If you are traveling with a small child or a person unable to secure his or her mask, please secure your own mask before helping them to secure theirs.'  That's what you need to do.  You have to take care of yourself first before you can take care of anyone else."

After four 16-hour-plus days in a row, this rocked my world.  As teachers, everyone we deal with on a day to day basis thinks that what they need out of us comes first.  Often this is true.  One can't exactly tell 21 suburban teenagers "I am feeling tired/ill//cranky this morning. Good luck navigating the uptown 1 at rush hour from midtown to Columbia University!  I'll just catch up with y'all later."  This is laughable.  If one is too ill to write sub plans, then one just has to go to work and wing it.  Several years ago, when I broke my clavicle playing rugby, I simply couldn't get far enough ahead to take a day off.  And so I didn't take any days off.  I spent eight weeks teaching in a figure eight brace as I did my best to keep to a normal schedule.  Each day I crawled home and slept for several hours and then woke up to grade papers. So, when things fall completely to pieces, what do we do?  Ironically, we rely on each other.

So last month, when I was at school on a Sunday helping some students set up for an extracurricular fundraiser in which we sold roses for Valentine's Day.  As I was juggling 10 dozen roses, I gestured at a student with one bunch of flowers and managed to effectively give myself a paper cut on my eyeball with the cellophane flower wrapping.  So, for the next three hours I sat around my classroom and organized flowers while holding Kleenex over my eye, and then I drove off to the urgent care.  Meanwhile, I was on the phone with my co-adviser dictating sub plans and figuring out how the fundraiser could go off on the following day without me there.  I consider myself blessed that I have co-workers who have my back.  At times like these, however, I always think about teachers who are not as fortunate as I am.  Nothing about our education system has their backs.

I am constantly on my students to balance the things that they want to do with the things that they have to do.  Perhaps I should listen to myself on that one.  If I can't take care of myself, how can I ever expect to care for others?  While I know this intellectually, the metaphor of the plane swiftly losing pressure is more poignantly accurate than I can ever say.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I work here

Twice this week I've had conversations with students in which I have found myself clarifying, in one way or another, that the place they think of as school is actually where I work.  For example, seven fourteen year old girls run screaming down the hall at lunch in a pitch that should only be heard by dogs.  Feeling curmugeonly, I walk out in the hall, tell them to stop and add, as they are walking away, "I work here, you know?"

They stared at me as though I was some sort of exotic South American bird and then mumbled "Sorry, miss" and walked away.

In the same vein, one of my students suddenly discovered yesterday that I had business cards on my desk.  "Hey!  You have business cards!" he observed.  Why this came as a surprise is unclear, as he has been in my class for a month, but we'll take what we can get.

"Yes, because I work here" I explained. 

"But the other teachers don't have business cards.  That's why I was surprised.  Why don't the other teachers have business cards?"

Okay, so the kid has a point.  Realistically, the answer to his question is that I made my business cards myself because my school email address is 900 characters long, features elements of my name that even my mom only used when I was really in trouble and ends in an acronym that would confuse some astrophysicists.  So the fact that I have business cards is mostly a result of my ability to operate Word templates and a laser printer. 

Most people do understand that teaching is a job.  As in, we show up each day, get paid to be there, and eventually, we leave.  The piece of this that is missing is the recognition that schools, in addition to being schools, are also workplaces. 

It's this fact that nearly caused my head to explode on the day that a group of thoughtful parents decided to arm the kids with an impressive array of dollar-store toys, turning my otherwise sedate sixth period class into a small army of teenage noisemaking machines apparently sent for the sole purpose of creating a countywide run on Excedrin Migraine.  I was displeased.  One brave student dared to ask why.

"Because this is my job!  How would your mom feel if I let all 30 of you loose in her office with those things?"

Being good teenagers, they insisted that Mom wouldn't mind at all.  They did get my drift, however, and managed to stow the assorted pinata innards after I threatened to take them all away and stash them in my desk until June. 

The fact that people don't think of schools as workplaces, but rather as some kind of oversized storage locker where persons between the ages of 4 and 18 are kept during the hours of 7:00 AM and 3:00 PM is evident in the lack of attention to one particular aspect of the ongoing debate about unions and collective bargaining in Ohio and Wisconsin.  Everyone wants to talk about is the list that follows:
  1. Wages
  2. Benefits
  3. Pensions
  4. The right to collectively bargain
And waaaaaaaaay down at the bottom of this list in teensy print is the thing that teachers should absolutely be talking the most about in the debate: working conditions.

Why is nobody mentioning this?  Surely some PR wonk somewhere has thought: "Hey!  Teachers' working conditions are students learning conditions!  Genius!  Let's talk about that!"

Think about it: teachers' working conditions mean things like:
  • How many kids there are in each class
  • What percentage of these kids have identified learning differences
  • How many hours in a row a teacher can work without being given a chance to pee
  • How much time teachers are pulled away from classes for meetings
  • How many different courses a teacher can be expected to prepare to teach in any given year
  • How much time teachers are given to plan with other teachers in order to improve instruction
Not being able to bargain over working conditions is, simply put, not being able to effectively advocate for the percentage of the population that cannot vote.  Why aren't we talking about this?  First, because in all of the recent debate about education, the voices of individual teachers, the powerful voices of the people who really know how things work (and don't work) in a 21st century classroom are missing.  Why?  We're busy.  We're teaching more and more kids with greater and greater needs every day. 

Why else?  We haven't found a way to make the reality of these working conditions and the impact that they have on students' learning visible to people who aren't in classrooms every day.  It's not quantifiable.  It's not a line on a budget.  It's hard to explain to people who don't face children every day.  But if what we do every day is to be understood, we must talk about what we do and why we do it every day. 

Describing our working conditions and demanding control over them is not "whining" as some are prone to argue.  It is a public service: we are reminding them that teachers and students are the ones doing the work of education every day.  If anyone should need a further reminder as to why these conditions matter, I would be happy to donate some kazoo-wielding tenth graders to the cause.

A Month of Sundays

The title for this blog comes from an informal conversation that I once had with another teacher about our respective plans for summer.  If I remember correctly, I inquired about what her plans were for the month of July and she responded, "I have no plans.  July is my month of Sundays."  As a new teacher at the time, her rationale made perfect sense to me.  You see, if you have never been a teacher or have never lived with one, you think of Sunday very differently than do the approximately 6.2 million teachers in the United States.  You may have friends over to watch a football game, you may enjoy some kind of outdoor activity, run errands, clean the house, read the paper or catch up on laundry.  You may attend religious services or spend the day with your family.  Some folks volunteer, serve in the National Guard or military reserves or just enjoy having nothing to do.  Of course, other people go to work at their paid jobs on Sundays or work a second job to supplement their incomes.  Firefighters, police officers, nurses, doctors and people in retail businesses do not get Sunday off just because it is Sunday.  Teachers do many of these things as well.  It's what we do in addition to all of these ordinary life activities that differentiates us from much of the rest of working America.

You see, on Sundays (or Saturdays depending on religious observance) we grade, we plan, we read, we prepare, we organize and we steel ourselves for the breakneck pace of another week in the teaching profession.  It's this fact that irritates teachers when we are confronted with an intoxicated dinner party guest who informs us how lucky we are to have "summers off."  It's also the kind of general aggravation that inspires responses like spoken word poet Taylor Mali's piece on Def Poetry Jam "What Teachers Make." The truth is, most folks do not think on a regular basis about what it is that teachers really do.  I've heard everything from "crowd control" to "herding cats" to "glorified babysitting" but in reality most people's experience of education is painfully limited to their own individual perspective or to the experience of their children.  Teachers are always the oppositional force in this equation.  I do not mean that most people dislike teachers: in my experience this is not the case.  What I would suggest instead is that teachers are always on the other side of an irreconcilable duality: the phrases "parent-teacher conferences" and "student-teacher interactions" are just a few examples of this divide in action.  The fundamental lack of understanding of what happens to teachers when they walk out of the school building is precisely why my students laugh when I joke about never leaving school and sleeping in my classroom closet upside down like a bat.  They can't actually image where I go at the end of the school day. 

Much like everyone else, I go home to everyday concerns of house, family and pets, but when I go I take my classroom with me.  First of all, there's the papers.  The grading is positively oppressive.  Admittedly, it is my least favorite part of the job, but with steadily increasing class sizes (up 15-20% over the past five years) it takes up greater quantities of my time every year.  This is the point when the kids would intervene and say "Well, if you didn't give us the work, you wouldn't have to grade it!" While true, this is clearly not the answer to my paperwork problems.  So I find myself trying to modify the local school curriculum so that I can meet all my benchmarks while negotiating the district's labrynthine grading policy without spending all of every weekend marking papers.  Why not do it during the school day, you ask?  I have two 45-minute prep periods each day, and a 45 minute "lunch period" as well.  That would mean that if I spend exactly one minute grading each students' work each day, I would be able to possibly eat a sandwich and maybe make it to the bathroom during lunch.  That is, if I didn't have meetings, planning, e-mails or a photocopier that crawled out of the Cretaceous period to contend with.

The most powerful illustration of a teacher's day that I have ever seen is to be found in Dave Eggers and co.'s recent book Teachers Have it Easy: The big sacrifices and small salaries of America's teachers.  The researchers did a side-by-side and minute-by-minute comparison of the daily life of a teacher  and that of a pharmaceutical salesman.  Let's just say that approximately six pages of the teacher's daily life went by before the salesman had roused himself from bed and only one of them had time during work to drop off the dry cleaning.   Why not be a pharmaceutical salesman, then?  Well, some 50% of new teachers do quit within the first three years and while there's a compelling argument to be made about compensation (or lack thereof) being a part of this, there's an even more serious issue of time.  This job eats your life.  Sure, you figure out ways to make it work, but it's not a humane way of living many weeks out of the year.

Why don't people understand this?  Mainly because they don't see it.  People don't see, hear or know what teachers are doing outside of the confines of a 45 minute period.  That's precisely why I am writing have taken to writing this blog.  I am not perfect, nor am I a saint, but I am human, a fact which somehow escapes the common teaching discourse.