What Non-Teachers Can’t Get Through Their Thick Heads

Squeezed among the hundreds of comments on my article, Why Teachers Are So Tired, you will find the following gem, which is representative of the views of many non-teachers:

“For the most part teachers only have to work 6-7 hours a day 8 months out of the year, off all holidays and presidents days Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks paid normally 2 wks each advent and whenever they decide to shut down due to weather etc. Everybody makes decisions in their jobs in life and have to work all year with maybe a couple days off for thanksgiving and Christmas and thats about it! Geez we all should be teachers! The other 3 months you can have another career while getting paid as a teacher too! What a deal then you bitch about not getting paid enough! Where the hell do you pinheads get off!”

The typical teacher rebuttals include rants about working well beyond our contractual hours and pointing out that those three months off aren’t actually paid (or three months). They’ll also take a few potshots at the commenter’s grammar. You are undoubtedly familiar with the give and take.

But what strikes me every time I read something like the above is the faulty logic. Because if the commenter is right and teaching is a cake job that requires relatively few hours of annual work with comparatively favorable pay, then his revelation that, “Geez, we all should be teachers,” ought to be enough to make him (and like-minded others) wonder:

Well, just why in the hell aren’t more people teachers?

Why don’t colleges of education have to beat away candidates with sticks?

Why can’t they be super selective since the demand is so high?

And perhaps most obviously, Why didn’t I myself become a teacher? What was I thinking!

It’s not as if there’s a high barrier to entry. Damn near anyone who gets accepted into a university will be accepted into its college’s teacher education program. The commenter himself (and yes, it’s a guy. Seems like it almost always is) almost certainly could have become a teacher had he wanted to.

But he didn’t, and he’s hardly alone. Fewer college freshmen today want to be teachers than at any point in the last 45 years. [1]

Which, if the commenter is even a little bit correct, is a little odd, isn’t it?

Why wouldn’t college kids want a job that gave them more free time to text emojis, eat avocado toast, and pretend to be offended on social media (or whatever it is kids do these days)?

The lack of logic doesn’t stop there. Because if teaching is such a fantastic deal, then why would any teacher, having landed such a cushy job and having virtually no chance of ever losing it (another one of the teacher-hater’s favorite talking points), ever want to give it up? They of all people ought to recognize the gravy train when they’re the ones riding it!

But 8% leave every year, and most of them make less money when they do.

Which is weird behavior for pinheads who have awesome jobs.

The commenter forgot to mention the lavish pension plans teachers receive (he must have been having an off day). Not only do these ungrateful teachers work seven-hour days, eight months a year and get paid pretty well, they retire to the life of Riley thanks to those taxpayer-funded pensions that private sector employees would kill for.

But even that enticement doesn’t do much to keep teachers from fleeing. On average, more than half of teachers do not receive any pension benefits because they don’t teach enough years to become eligible. Just one in five stays on the job long enough to receive full benefits at retirement. [2]

It almost seems like teachers — 80% of them, anyway — know something about the job that critics don’t.

There is only one argument left, and it’s not a very good one. To believe as the commenter does, you would have to stare reality in the face and come to this conclusion:

Teachers must be different than other people. They must be a particularly whiny bunch. They have it better than everybody else, and not only do they not realize it, they think they have it worse!  They’re so delusional, they quit their wonderful jobs to work longer hours for lower pay and they give up their state-funded retirement plans in the process!

That’s not a very compelling argument.

Commenters like the one quoted above prove three things with their ignorance and illogical arguments:

  1. They never taught. You will literally never hear a former teacher talk about how easy it was and how lavishly they were paid.
  2. They’re not interested in listening to what teachers are telling them, despite the fact that no one can understand what it’s like to teach unless they’ve done it.
  3. They’re not interested in logical thought and would rather vent their frustration at professionals who have the audacity to fight for more respect, better working conditions, and fairer pay.

Here is what non-teachers cannot seem to get through their thick heads:

If college kids don’t want to be teachers, and 8% of teachers leave every year, and only half stick around long enough to take advantage of those so-called extravagant pensions, then maybe, just maybe, they should actually believe teachers when they tell them that the job is challenging and they aren’t being paid enough to do it.

And if those who think teachers have it easy can’t do that and continue to insist that it’s the teachers who don’t understand how rough it is out there in “real world,” then they should go back to school and become a teacher.

They can practice by substitute teaching for a while. I hear there’s a shortage.

That’s where the hell this pinhead gets off. Geez.

 

[1] Survey: Number of Future Teachers Reaches All-Time Low 

[2] Why Most Teachers Get a Bad Deal on Pensions

 

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Want to read longer stuff? I write books, too. My latest, Leave School At School, is all about how you can chop hours off your teacher workweek without sacrificing effectiveness. In fact, you might even find you’re more effective in the classroom.

 

6 Replies to “What Non-Teachers Can’t Get Through Their Thick Heads”

  1. After 34 years (plus 2 and 1/2 years substitute teaching), I am retiring this spring. I will only receive about 75% of my salary and it will be a necessity to find a part time (or full) job to make up the difference.

    I love teaching. I don’t love the barrels-full of disrespect I witness from all directions. From the state leaders, to the parents, to the students who future teachers are now being instructed to call “friends”, teachers are expected to hear disparaging remarks and their tongues. Educators take on so many roles aside from that of instructor and still, we are considered lazy and privileged. REALLY?!?!?

    I dare those critics to substitute for two weeks! Ha! Most would not survive a day!

    I could continue but my ingrained conditioning to bite my tongue is taking over.

    Thank you for speaking up for us, always!
    RH

  2. I took my first position (a one-year probationary period) in 1971 (from early February – the school year in Australia runs end-of-January till mid-December). I was in a special climate zone with one week extra of summer vacation (southern hemisphere) right? During the year my permanent status was confirmed – and over the following four years plus I grew into a committed, focussed teacher – Of English, of History (among other responsibilities). Testing was seriously just twice a year – known respectively as the Half-Yearly and the Yearly exams. I taught in three separate high schools during that time (high school lasting US equivalent upper elementary to university entrance/matriculation). I married – we took excursions away across the state to the state capital (Sydney) and to the national capital (Canberra). We loved our teaching, our students and our colleagues – most of us young – still in our early/mid-latter 20s – and guided by committed and experienced yet innovative Head Teachers (of curriculum areas) and Deputies/Principals. We read, attended early era in-service/teacher development, state conferences, engaged in our professional domains – travelled – abroad. The final high school of those three was a brand new school – all of us transferred/appointed to it caught up in its “youthful” buzz of enthusiasm – to make it the region’s most successful school – and against other stereotypical assumptions – quickly succeeded. From which we headed overseas – travelling across the breadth of northern Asia to Europe and North America – time in Spain and Germany teaching English for Special/Professional purposes before such a specific area of English-language teaching was fully recognised – and returned to Australia – teaching again in a (different) rural setting – then six years teaching EAL (then called ESL/TESOL) while undertaking lots of graduate studies in the field – of sociology and linguistics – before moving to a coastal resort town – regular English, some history – a little French and German, too – and finally the big leap (turning 40) into studying and teaching Japanese. That turned into nearly two decades in Japan – still teaching – middle school, senior high – but mostly at university level.

    You are right that few teachers ever speak salary (even if privately wondering how mortgages/children’s educational costs/etc will be covered). Their professionalism generally keeps them quiet on how their chosen field carries rewards and negatives – mostly the rewards are immeasurable – but felt in the heart – until the attacks come against their profession – broad sweeping generalisations spewing forth out of ignorance – fed for starters by rightwing politicians, their shock-jock media attack-dogs and any ex-student who holds any grudge from their school days (and I would wish to apologise to them for the injustices they no doubt suffered – no one forgets the blame and punishment when it is undeserved)! We have exactly the same kinds of attacks and statements made here – though our summer vacation is a mere five or six weeks in duration – encompassing the Xmas/New Year period. There will, Murph, be many US teachers whose stories will match my own – and there are others who as hard-working have been burnt/burnt-out by the slings and arrows of not quite fully-formed adolescent anger and resistance – of my child-right-or-wrong parents – by school executives pandering to other pressures and consequently the teacher has not been given the right kinds of support and pats-on-the-back encouragement – which we all need! Your supportive essay here is very very important – in pushing back against the slurs cast on our profession. Thank-you.

  3. With all the walkouts recently I’ve been thinking about teacher pay and that’s how I found this site. Would fairer pay, from the perspective of one teacher (obviously teachers are not some homogeneous entity), would it be better to increase pay up front but get rid of pensions and swap to defined contribution plans, as well as pass through more of the costs for medical insurance (both short term and for retirement)?

    It sounds like there are true costs that are often not factored into total comp, instead we in the public hear about salary only. On the other hand, it is obvious also that teachers may feel locked in to their location or may move before benefits vests, and passing along costs while increasing upfront salary seems much more transparent all around. Not sure if you have any thoughts.

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