Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Sainthood of Teaching

By Anonymous

I asked for this to be published anonymously because I am afraid of retaliation.  I asked to be left unnamed, not because I do not stand behind what I write, but because in this society, I cannot say my opinion without being blacklisted.

I became a teacher because it was my calling.  I knew that meant long days, limited pay, and never, ever being able to leave work behind.  I thought I signed up to work in a profession where I at the very least would be respected.  Not so anymore.

When we sign up to be teachers, we make a sacrifice, however, no one ever explained to me just how great this sacrifice would be.  You are expected to want to be a teacher whether it is paid or not, I call this the sainthood of teaching.  As imposed saints we carry burdens within us that no one else can fathom; we hold the fate of our nation’s children in our hands every day; yet how dare we ask for decent pay or rights?  As a teacher you are not allowed to voice dissatisfaction over your pay or anything else you face, because that means you are in it for the wrong reason.  After all, if you truly are in it for the love of teaching, making a difference, then that should be payment enough.  You are not allowed to make a disparaging comment about your profession or the work environment you function in, because you should be thankful.  I am thankful, however, dedication and thankfulness does not feed my family.

In Wisconsin, we watched teachers protest for their basic rights and parents told them they were ungrateful.  Ungrateful over the job so graciously given to them, ungrateful over being in the best profession imaginable.  Protesting teachers were told that they obviously were only in this job for the 3 months off, the short days, the amazing salary and benefits that anyone would be envious of.  And no one spoke up because they were too afraid of looking like a selfish teacher, who just happened to also rely on this job not for mere life satisfaction, but also for the paycheck.  We sign up to perpetuate this myth of sainthood when we remain silent.

A colleague of mine quietly said to me during the protests, as we spoke of how scared we were for the future, “I may be a teacher, but I am a person first.” How powerful a statement, something that we cannot say in public.  The perversion of teaching as a noble profession has gotten so far that now when you get your teaching degree, you give up your person-hood.  You give up basic rights to speak up for yourself, to share your personal statements; indeed you live an edited life.  And you are supposed to just accept it, to feed into it, because otherwise you are obviously not a true teacher, but instead a selfish person who should not be allowed around children.

So with contracts being gutted, unions being quashed, and teachers becoming the enemy, our silence is deafening.  Sure you will hear the conversations in hushed tones in the hallway or over the phone but you will not find teachers sharing it aloud.  And there is much to be shared; how districts are manipulating the financial situation to present “take it or leave it” contracts that strip all rights, how principals determine pay or placement, how teacher’s voices are being destroyed in fear of retaliation or losing their job.  Teachers have successfully become the enemy, the people who brought on the financial recession, the haves, so how dare they complain?  I ask for teachers to be reconsidered in their positions.  For them to be recognized indeed as people first, teachers second.  That does not mean that we do not put our students above everything else, it just means that we ask to be given terms that means we can feed our families, live our lives, and indeed even continue to be teachers.  I do not think this is a big thing to ask for, don’t let the silence speak for us all.


  1. argh! just wrote a long and lovely comment about how much I agree with you and lost it!

    In short - I agree, and thank you. Keep up the good fight. If they think they could handle the complete mindfudge that is being responsible for the evolution of the next generation of human beings, of acting "in loco parentis", let them try our jobs.

    Higher pay attracts talent and innovation. There's a big need for higher pay to incentivise us getting our very important job right.

  2. Kelli, I'm sorry you lost your comment. Blogger can be frustrating like that.

    Pay teachers well and then support them to do the job they are asked to do. We're not pets who need to be manipulated with bribes and threats - engaging in this kind of manipulation is both insulting and ineffective.

  3. I've grown to believe that the "call" to teaching so ably described here is really a siren song.

    It sounds so ideal to those in college (or in other professions)--patriotic even--but there is little civic support and even less respect for the work we do.

  4. very powerful, glad we are not in the exact same boat in Canada, although I sense things changing

  5. I am no saint, but I sure have sacrificed a lifetime of time with my own family, a boatload of money for curriculum support materials, and countless hours responding to parents during my many years in this career. I love my kids in the classroom, though...and I will continue to forge ahead. Because even though all the externals...the legislators, the administrators and especially the parents...seem to think we're bad children who need constant monitoring and improvement? They only have their OWN experience in the classroom, and it does not bear any resemblance to what goes on in mine! Forge ahead, everyone! Stick together and be compassionate to one another. Keep changing with the children in front of you...not by all the controversy that surrounds you. We do need to focus on the education of our economically disadvantaged and make their experiences equal...that is where the controversy should be!


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