September 21, 2014

Back-to-school time means unhappy teachers

Danedri Thompson
Columnist
It’s back to school time, which comes with a litany of prayers for teachers and complaining about how tough a role teaching truly is.
My favorite example is a whiny Florida teacher’s essay that went viral in 2010.
The famed viral essay starts, “I am a teacher in Florida,” and then drones through a list of all the challenges teachers face. The essay, written by fourth grade teacher Jammee Miller, only served to irritate me.
“I rise before dawn each day and find myself nestled in my classroom hours before the morning commute is in full swing in downtown Orlando,” the complainer whines.
I am a journalist in Kansas. I rise way, way before dawn at least once a week and often more than that.I’ve polished up three stories or more, designed pages for the print edition and started editing the finished product before most people have had the chance to hit the snooze button on their alarm clocks.
Teachers and journalists are hardly alone in getting up before dawn to do their jobs. Soldiers, bakers and baristas are also on the clock long before the sun comes up.
“I am a teacher in Florida… As the sun sets around me and people are beginning to enjoy their dinner, I lock my classroom door, having worked four hours unpaid,” she whines.
As most people are getting dinner on the table in their own households, I’m gearing up to attend a school board, city council or county commission meeting. When you’re crawling into bed, I’m still sitting through a meeting mentally to piecing together all background information necessary to write a story a populace with only a fifth grade reading level will understand. I skip dinner. My husband fends for himself, and when my story reaches print at least one reader or source will yell or belittle me via email or telephone.
And miles away from home on a battlefield, there’s a soldier who hasn’t had dinner at home or even seen his family in months. “I am a teacher in Florida,” she writes. “…I greet the smiling faces of my students and am reminded anew of their challenges, struggles, successes, failures, quirks, and needs. They come in hungry—I feed them. They come in angry—I counsel them. They come in defeated—I encourage them. And this is all before the bell rings.”
“I am a teacher in Florida,” she whines. “…I accepted a lower salary with the promise of a small increase for every year taught. I watched my friends with less education than me sign on for six figure jobs while I embraced my $28k starting salary.”
I am a journalist in Kansas. Starting out at $28,000 per year sounds like a dream come true. And apparently, I’m hanging with the wrong crowds, because I don’t remember anyone getting a six-figure job right out of college. I work in the private sector in an office with a staff of less than 10. Our health plans are meager. And a pension? Bwa ha ha ha. That’s a good one. Here in the private sector our bosses can’t afford glamorous pensions and health care packages. The only retired people I know who aren’t still working just to put food on the table retired from public sector jobs. They’re too busy trying to scrape together enough tax money to ensure the teachers and administrators have the goods in their benefit packages.
And don’t get me started on the glamorous double-dipping schemes that allow public sector employees – ahem, even locally – to take double their salaries in publicly-funded retirement and salaries.
Meanwhile, that soldier’s family lives below the poverty level so journalists and teachers can whine about their jobs.
“I am a teacher in Florida,” she cries. “…I spent $2,500 in my first year alone to outfit an empty room so that it would promote creative thinking and a desire to learn and explore.” She prints stuff at home. She buys school supplies out of her own pocket at Staples.
Of course, most people in the private sector typically have to fend for themselves as well. They pay for home offices and cell phones, like this journalist, often without a stipend so they’re available to do their jobs at a moment’s notice. And guess what? Staples doesn’t offer a journalist discount. Guess who gets one there? (As well as 50 percent off discounts on homes through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, discounts on supplies from many retailers and a litany of other special deals? If you said, “teachers,” give yourself an ‘A-plus.’)
“I am a teacher in Florida,” the whiny essay continues. “…I went to school at one of the best universities in the country and completed undergraduate and graduate programs in education. I am a master of my craft… My expertise is waved away, disregarded, and overlooked. I am treated like a day-laborer, required to follow the steps mapped out for me…”
I am a journalist in Kansas. I attended the finest university in Kansas. I worked hard, got good grades and learned a lot. At graduation, my university never promised me a fat paycheck along with my diploma. They promised me an education, which I received.
“I am a teacher in Florida,” she snivels. “I am overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated by most… I am being required to do more and more, and I’m being compensated less and less.”
I am a journalist in Kansas, and I am traumatized that anyone considers this rant a rallying cry. It’s whining – pure and simple. I’m disgusted by the idea that 24 fourth graders each year are learning from a teacher with so little grit. Whining like a baby on the playground of life isn’t an example I’d want my kids to follow.
Newflash, Florida teacher: Your profession isn’t the only one that requires early mornings, late nights and low pay. Welcome to the real world that your essay complains you can’t recreate in your classroom due to budget constraints. You’re living in it. And all those bureaucrats who are micromanaging your work – they’re your bosses. They were appointed by elected officials. And we, the people, are their bosses. You don’t work for you. You work for us.
We want you to do the best you can with the tools you’re given just like those of us in the private sector do everyday. We know you work hard, and we’re not asking for miracles. But we are asking that you understand that the challenges at your office are the same ones the rest of us face. And we don’t get two full months off in the summer to recharge our batteries.

Comments

  1. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    I suppose in mid-August, 2016, Kansas journalist will once again “rise way, way before dawn” to “do the best (she) can with the tools (she’s) given” to “polish up” her triennially recycled diatribe (http://gardnernews.com/opinion-kansas-journalist-thinks-florida-teacher-whines-too-much/), knowing once again that “when my story reaches print at least one reader or source will yell or belittle me via email or telephone.”

    Give it a rest, Kansas journalist. Shutter your archives.

    I suggest a new rueful opinion piece, maybe on other early risers – for example, our local farmers – who awaken each morning before dawn, seven days a week, before heading alone to the field to tend their acres of crops or scores of livestock, possibly whining into their coffee cups that they also “don’t get two full months off in the summer to recharge our batteries.”

    And, yes, I’ll probably send whiny Kansas journalist another email.

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    And I say there is no whiner like the farmer. I have never met one yet who hasn’t poor mouthed me. And yet the farmers have received BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars for subsidies for decades and decades. The average farmer’s annual income is over $80,000 while the average worker in the U.S. only gets I believe around $30,000 to $40,000 a year and so many live on much less. And that crop insurance program is the best unemployment insurance program you could ever ask for in my opinion. Go to http://farm.ewg.org/region.php?fips=20000 and you can spend hours and hours going thru all of the handouts paid by the AMERICAN TAXPAYERS.

    There are so many thieves out there wanting and GETTING their tax incentives, tax credits, tax abatements, TIFs, Star Bonds, tax refunds, no taxes at all, subsidies of every kind available or the most glorias of the fraudulent is the “farm” appraisal when no farming activity is present on the property and their tax bill is cut to almost nothing. They have citizens pay for every one of their wants and needs and will stand on their back feet and demand more while so many citizens cannot even find a job, have health care, etc., etc.

    It is only due to the average, HONEST, hardworking, loyal citizen that there are tax dollars available for anything in this country and they are lied to, stomped on, put down, discredited, used and abused, etc. to high heaven.

    I certainly won’t be stopping my diatribe about so much of the crap going on in this country – that will only happen when I am dead in my grave or don’t care about my fellow citizens any more or I, too, have lost my moral compass.

    Teachers have their complaints but, to me, they are much more lucky or well off than many in this country who are suffering so and I don’t have to look any further than their KPERs retirement program wherein citizens starting in 2014 will have to be paying 47% more for those costs right along with all of the other government workers. That retirement program is another black cloud hanging over the shoulders of every Kansas citizen and when that black cloud starts raining hard in the year or years ahead, it is not going to be pretty.

  3. Judith Rogers says:

    Citizens can go to http://farm.ewg.org/addrsearch.php?search_input_text=66030&search_input_image_large.x=7&search_input_image_large.y= to get the list of farmers out of zip code 66030 (Gardner) who are receiving farm subsidies – there are ONLY 323 in JUST that one zip code. Happy Reading and know where SOME of your tax dollars go. I don’t believe these figures include what we pay for crop insurance and probably for other things. That POOR farmer who awakens before dawn, seven days a week,…………………etc., etc. I say that POOR TAXPAYER who gets screwed seven days a week by MANY.

  4. David Lanigan says:

    Farmers are business owners, notice I didn’t say small business owners.
    I’ve been a teacher. They are underpaid with terrible benefits. I flipped burgers for better pay and benefits.
    Who says we don’t expect miracles from teachers? Who gets the blame for the poor showing our students are showing across this country?

  5. I’m not sure what teachers you have been talking to or where you get your information, but every teacher I know looks forward to the new school year and does everything they can to ensure students are welcomed back with the greatest of enthusiasm. After reading this article, I can’t imagine that you’ve had any contact with any teacher in some time. You have absolutely no understanding of what a teacher is held responsible for in their line of work. You are not worth wasting time trying to explain the weight of the responsibility each and every teacher takes on with the start of each new year. Maybe this article is just one of the reasons you are a lowly, sad little journalist in Kansas. You obviously do little to no research and base all of your information on second hand journalism. Did you make any attempt to contact this teacher to verify she was even a real person? Maybe another whiny, opinionated journalist like you made it all up to get attention. That’s what you want isn’t it? Attention? You have nerve comparing your insignificant journalism job to that of an educator. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you have little to no effect on the future of this country or even this state. You write an opinion column. No one even trusts you to right a real article. On top of it all, you feel the need to whine about your job while insulting an entire profession based one teacher’s essay from 2010. I had not picked up a Gardner News paper in 6 months and now I regret having done so today. What a waste of ink. Normally I wouldn’t give you the time of day, but I want every teacher out there to know that the majority of parents, students and citizens of this city appreciate you, know what a great job you do with what you are given, and respect you for your willingness to put up with whiny, opinionated journalist. For the record, I appreciate good journalism. Your are not a good journalist.

  6. Judith Rogers says:

    clworth writes: “No one even trusts you to RIGHT a real article.”

    cl, several teachers sure failed you or perhaps there wasn’t much to work with.

    Please take the time to ” explain the weight of the responsibility each and every teacher takes on with the start of each new year.” I can hardly wait to read your intelligent article on that matter. I also wanted to ask you when was the last time you picked something up to read other than the Gardner News and what that might be.

    David Lanigan states that he flipped burgers for better pay and benefits than those received by teachers. Well, David I guess you will always have opportunities for flipping burgers and you must really feel cheated by the teacher position you held after getting your degree to teach plus all of the costs involved in that education. Myself, I think your teacher retirement program under KPER would bring you much bigger compensation than what you would get from a retirement program (if one exists for burger flippers) for flipping burgers. You also might want to consider being a farmer – you can read about all of the taxpayer paid subsidies you could get at http://farm.ewg.org/

  7. You are correct, Judith. “Write, not “right”. In my passionate attempt to defend the fabulous educators of this city I wrote the incorrect word. I would venture to say that it is not a reflection of my teacher’s past or present successes, but a reflection of my focus on the real issue. Yes, I should have scrutinized my post with the eagle eye of a bitter, lonely, old lady who has nothing better to do than respond to every article written is this paper. You, my dear, are not worth explaining anything to. You obviously have no children and no life. You are incapable of understanding what it is I was trying to say in the last post, which would make it a waste my time trying to explain something that anyone who matters already knows. I guess there is a chance you are nothing but the “Howard Stern” of the “Gardner News,” writing only to incite angry responses, like my husband thinks you are.You must be. No one can really be as angry and bitter and as sad a human being (and I am using that term lightly) as you portray yourself to be. While I may not hold an English degree and proof reading is obviously not my forte, I have a life. Say what you will about me. This will be my only response to you. I pity you, Judith. Life is Good. Enjoy yours.

  8. Judith Rogers says:

    So glad you have a life so perhaps you could “right” about it and give us more of your insights. I will be waiting (not really) with bated breath (with bated breath, with breath drawn in or held because of anticipation or suspense: We watched with bated breath as the runners approached the finish line.).

    I normally don’t say much about errors in spelling, grammar, etc. since I have made many in my lifetime but yours was too much for me, cl.

    I always think it is ironic when people talk about somebody’s “diatribe” and yet they can’t see their own diatribes. I believe there is much wrongdoing going on in this ole world right now to prompt a diatribe and I will continue to post my thoughts, opinions, viewpoints, etc. And there will be those who will continue to not like me doing so – so be it.

    Also, cl, keep in mind that your husband, more than likely, is no more the expert than you are. It disturbs me when a woman refers to her husband’s opinions and deems them infallible.

  9. David Lanigan says:

    Not every teacher is eligible for retirement benefits. I made $94.5 per day to teach with no benefits . I don’t really care if you believe me. You assumed I left teaching to flip burgers, wrong. I loved teaching, taught till the day my health no longer permitted me to work.

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