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Jeff Ward: I'm Stunned at What Teachers Have to Put Up With, for Very Little Pay

I just don't understand all the animosity directed at teachers these days!

I still don’t get it! I lamented the fact that teachers, school bus drivers, daycare workers and the folks with whom we charge our children in general don’t get paid nearly enough for their excellent efforts.

Though I haven’t really tackled the teacher topic directly (until now), in addition to the dismissive comments coming out of that column, it would seem that whenever the subject of educators arises, the educators always come out on the short end of the stick.

Trust me, I can clearly recall all of Sister Camilla’s shouting, and I still have those deep yardstick imprints on my back, but that single, bad Catholic-school experience hasn’t soured my attitude toward teachers. In fact, I’m still friends with some of those St. Nick’s nuns.

So unless the theory that "one bad apple spoils the whole bunch" (The Osmonds, December 1970 ... see ) holds true, I don’t understand the prevailing animosity so frequently directed at teachers these days.

But rather than attack it from a fiscal vantage point yet again, I’m going to take a more personal tack this time. You see, my wife has been a full-time student teacher for the past month and, having seen it firsthand, I’m stunned with what teachers have to put up with for less money than a starting truck driver or a McDonald's manager makes.

I already know what you’re thinking! “C’mon Jeff! You’re only defending teachers because your wife is about to become one! Isn’t 'disingenuous' one of your favorite words?”

Of course, my response to that one dear reader is I wrote a rousing defense of our dogged educators for The Beacon-News five years ago—long before my wife even considered a career change—and I haven’t changed my stance since.

To be perfectly honest, I think she’s nuts, but that’s probably a tautology when you consider that she’s been married to me for 20 long years. If two decades of that kind of wedded bliss haven’t pushed her over the edge, then teaching ain’t about to do it, either. And since she’s supported every last one of my career changes, the least I could do is reciprocate.

Even though we’re using my lovely wife as our archtype here, her day is no different from that of thousand of teachers all over Patchland.

Like most of them, she gets up at 5:30 a.m. to make it to a local middle school in time to prepare for those 8 a.m. classes. If you’re a high school teacher, you might be lucky enough to draw one of those “early bird” sessions which start around 6:30 a.m.

I still know what you’re thinking! “But Jeff, then she gets out at 3 p.m. and has the rest of the day to herself.”

Wrong!

My wife—and all of the teachers at that school—rarely get out of the building before 4:30, because there are always children who need extra attention and those frequent parent-teacher meetings scheduled in hopes of getting the more-challenged students back on track.

And those are the parents who actually support the teachers. , at least 50 percent of parents think their children can do no wrong and will often go as far as threatening to sue the school in the face of any discipline their little darlings so desperately need.

As a , I have reasonable reign to deal with disrespectful players, but teachers don’t. Though one of my coaching mentors told me to "run 'em till they puke!" when a player is disrespectful, if a teacher did that, they’d end up on the evening news.

Unless a student is violent, public-school teachers are required work with them until they either drop out or turn 18. And because administrators are tired of getting beaten up by obnoxious parents, teachers tell me they’re taught to always accent the positive with even the most-difficult children, which I’ve found can backfire on you faster than eating a chilidog right before the opera.

When she finally gets home, more often then not, my wife is grading tests and commenting on classwork right up until the time she goes to bed. Some Friday afternoons, I look at her and say, “Who the heck are you?”

On weekends, she does lesson plans. Please don’t try and tell me that ends after the first year of teaching, because it doesn’t. There are constant curriculum changes, ever-expanding unfunded government mandates—and different groups of children require different approaches.

Are there bad teachers? You bet there are! But there are bad columnists, too. Personally, I can’t get through a John Kass column without falling into a deep coma. But that’s not my point! For what they’re generally paid, 95 percent of teachers do an amazing job.

Before you naysayers inevitably respond, I want you to put your money where you mouth is. You see, every year I do a presentation on how to be an entrepreneur for some local high school business classes.

I can generally make it through the first period intact, but even though I have no fear of public speaking, my antiperspirant usually fails in the second period and by the end of the day, I’m ready for a two-month sabbatical.

But if I can do it, so can you. Take just one day out of your busy schedule to share your pearls of wisdom with a local grade/middle/high school class and report back to Patch on the experience.

Sometimes the road to enlightenment isn’t nearly as difficult as we believe it to be!

gina May 01, 2012 at 06:25 PM
The average pension is 45,000 for teachers in IL. Teachers are professionals and are not "servants" and should be respected for the work that they do and the parents that they put up with. The writer's wife is student teaching, not a full time teacher, and does not even receive a stipend for her efforts. No percs there.
Emerson May 01, 2012 at 07:54 PM
The $45,000 figure is indeed the average. That includes those that retired many years ago when wages were lower and folks that retired early without reaching full benefits. The current retirement benefit is around $65,000. Not too shabby!
Bart May 01, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Not too shabby at all. Especially when you consider that us non-union folks who have to fund our own 401ks need to sock away over a million dollars to be able to pull out 50k annually after retirement.
gina May 01, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Not too shabby If it is there for them at all/
Bart May 01, 2012 at 09:53 PM
My guess is your union pension will survive longer than my social security

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