Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Line up the teachers and flog 'em


(The following are a bunch of old pictures of students. I know they are sort of out dated, but I couldn't resist. Sorry. I hope they bring back good memories.)

I can’t watch the Oscars anymore. My Mom still does and when I call her on Sunday night, my Monday morning, she is sitting on the sofa star-gazing at the red carpet glitz with a front row seat munching popcorn in slippers.
My Mom is the most veracious devourer of literature and cinema I’ve ever met. She’s practically a Gold Member library card carrier and has her handprints enshrined in cement outside the local Cineplex Odeon. She’s seen every movie that came out this year including the wickedly delicate Black Swan and the suicidally love-starved Valentine’s Day. Basically, she knows what’s worth the price of admission, and I inherited, thankfully, my absolute sheer love of teaching stories from her bibliophile DNA.
That being said, I can no longer stand the Academy Awards.
It’s not what you think. It wasn’t the incessant banshee-like howling of host Anne Hathaway (Why doesn’t anyone ever mention her first marriage to William Shakespeare?) anytime an A-list celeb she wished to work with approached the stage, or the insouciant snooze of her co-host James Franco, seriously dude, smoke another bowl. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mr. 127 Hours when he wasn’t half-baked, except for in Pineapple Express, oddly enough.)
No, it’s not that.
I just can’t stand the inglorious praise heaped on these vacant and trance-like human beings for doing a job they get paid bazillions for.
“Oh, you’re such a great actor. Let me throw flowers at your feet.”
“Oh, you are such a beautiful pretender. Now bend over and let me pucker up.”
It’s disgusting.
This is why we should boycott the Oscars: How many people do you know that have completely thankless jobs?
“Oh, Rhonda, your spreadsheets are just so awe inspiring. Because of you, I became a Data Entry personnel.”
“Oh, Chuck, that oil change was done with such flair. How did you get that synthetic unleaded into character? And that lavender air-tree freshener. Bravo, Chuck! Bravo!”
Ok. Here’s really the pit of my sour grapes. Sometimes being a teacher sucks!
Not all the time. But sometimes, sure.
Case in point: Parent / Teacher night. Which is just an excuse for parents to rant and rave like pitchfork and torch wielding lunatics. Teaching is one of the only professions where random strangers come in off the street and say what they think of you.
Imagine the Post Office opening their doors from 7 to 10 p.m. so the public could complain.
“You guys are as slow as snails. And what’s with those funky weightlifting belts? Does the price of stamps really need to go up a penny each year? Jeez!”
Or the TV cable company.
“You said you would be at my house between 11 and 4, but you never showed up. Why don’t we just sit here now and you explain your work philosophy to me. I’ve got all the time in the world. Go.”
Or the woman at the Government Records Office.
“I don’t understand how you lost my paperwork… oh, and your cubical stinks.”
Nope.
Just teachers.
Lock and Load, public. We’re sitting ducks.
“You gave my kid a D-. How dare you. Let me see your curriculum.”
“But, I’ve only seen your son three times this semester, and last time he came to my class he threw a chair at me.”
OR…
“You only made five corrections on my child’s worksheet. How is he supposed to get into college if he doesn’t fix his mistakes?”
“Your child is 17 years old.”
“I don’t care. You need to spend less time talking about how my child is an artist and more time drilling him in math.
“I am an English teacher.”
“How are they supposed to get a job and take care of me when I am older… on dreams?”
Believe me, on the usual Parent / Teacher nights, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree shoved up most parent’s butts.
Here are some teacher numbers.
If you take the average teacher with a class full of 30 kids who is with them from 7 to 4, every day, that’s 9 hours a day for five days, 45 hours a week. You make them teach 38 weeks a year, that’s 12 weeks off for summer and two weeks off for Christmas. You pay them 3 dollars an hour for every kid, a fee that the average middle school babysitter would scoff at. That’s 190 school days and 1,710 hours a year for an annual salary of $153,900.
That’s not counting all the extra time grading papers, tests, theorems, or lesson planning.
By the way, the average U.S. national starting teacher salary is $26,000 topping out at about $56,000.
That’s a difference of about one-hundred thousand dollars.
But those are just numbers, aren’t they?
So last night, as I was primping and preparing my feathers to absorb the usual shots of the locked and loaded parents and the snakes-in-a-barrel teachers, I thought about how I should turn my introduction into an acceptance speech. So here goes.
I want to say, “Thanks.”
Thank you to all the teachers that grade papers at 11 p.m. after putting their kids to bed. You make me believe in the goodness of the world. Thank you to all the teachers that turn everyday objects like bookshelves and beanbags into safe havens and nooks of invisibility. You turn kids into dreamers and believers. Thank you to the teachers who breathe art and creativity into every utterance directed at a student. You make passion surge in my veins. Thank you to the teachers who give up their lunch to hang out and talk with kids who otherwise would forever go unheard. Thank you to the teachers who give second chances instead of kicks to the head. Thank you to the teachers who create whole lessons for the student who treats them the worst in hopes they might light a spark.
Thank you, friends.
Accept this award on all of our behalves.
P.S. Last night I finally got a thank you for putting on the two month long Rock & Roll Romeo and Juliet play. It came as a real surprise. I went home and slept soundly.

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