August 1, 2014

OPINION: Kansas journalist thinks Florida teacher whines too much

Danedri Thompson

dthompson@gardnernews.com

A whiny teacher’s essay has gone viral to become a rallying cry for the National Education Association and teachers everywhere.

It starts, “I am a teacher in Florida,” and then whines 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 whiner writes.

I am a journalist in Kansas. I rise way, way before dawn two days a week. 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.

“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.

I am a journalist in Kansas.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 trying mentally to piece together all the 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.

“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 journalist in Kansas. I walk through the door as yet another angry politician or reader is lambasting us, because they don’t agree with our coverage. I open my email and read the kinds of insults that would make grown men weep – and that’s all before I finish my morning cup of coffee.

“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. Getting a raise? Less likely than winning the lottery. 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. They’re too busy trying to scrape together enough tax money to ensure the teachers and administrators have the goods in their benefit packages.

“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.

I am a journalist in Kansas.  I purchased my own camera, batteries, tape recorder, and pens.

And guess what? Staples doesn’t offer a journalist discount. Guess who gets one at many office supply stores 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 got.

Sometimes people with less education than I have boss me around. That’s OK. Many learned from another school — the school of life — and I can  and should learn from them.

“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 learn from.

For all its challenges – including low pay, long hours, very little appreciation and hard work, I love my job. Not for the security it provides me or for the paycheck – I love my job, because I feel like what I’m doing matters.

Newflash, Florida teacher: Your profession isn’t the only one that requires early mornings, late nights and low pay. Welcome to the real world 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. And as far as this boss is concerned, you should start looking for another job.

Teacher’s whiny missive can be found here.

Comments

  1. Gardner Pride says:

    Didn’t you just combat her whiny missive with your own whiny missive? It sounds as though she loves her job too.

  2. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    I suggest the journalist quit whining and re-read the entire linked story.

    Teacher and journalist are both paid to serve the public, one funded by taxpayers, the other by voluntary subscription fees and the support of advertisers.

    Teacher whined on her personal Facebook website. Journalist whined on her employer’s public website.

    I have tremendous respect for both professions. As far as this reader is concerned, teacher and journalist should both keep their current jobs.

  3. I have always been an advocate of paying an excellent teacher a good wage. The key is the word “excellent”. I want to reward the teachers who do an excellent job and get rid of the ones who are not just like I want to get rid of the worthless politicians and get true representatives who work for the people. I do not, however, believe in rewarding the losers as we have seen going on with so many CEO’s, Wall St. bankers, investment banks, etc. who are creating huge problems for the people instead of helping the people. I do not believe in rewarding unacceptable behavior but a whole lot of it goes on here in the U.S. and you have certainly had here in Gardner and Edgerton.

    I read the other day that teachers now just check to see if homework was handed in but they do not check the homework for accuracy. Now if that system is getting to be ordinary, then that is a far cry from real teaching in my book. Testing will tell whether these kids are really learning anything I would hope, but not to be checking homework to me is not giving the kids what they need right up front to avoid failing at time of testing. You wonder why America is going down the chart as to quality of education and if this is going on, to me that would be another reason why our kids aren’t learning as they should and our ratings are slipping which creates even more problems down the road. Our people have to be educated in order to compete in the world wide economy.

    How many times have people criticized me for speaking out and calling me all kinds of names and inferring I am a troublemaker, etc.???? Plenty but I believe in holding people accountable for their words, actions, inaction and voting record and all citizens need to be doing that on many of the issues in my opinion because I certainly can’t get needed changes all by myself. Every citizen has a responsibility whether it be with schools, taxes, mergers of fire departments, thieving big biz and developers and other special interests, illegal immigration, etc., etc.

  4. While I fully respect your rights under the first amendment to publish your opinions, I believe you’re both missing the point AND engaging in the same activity of which you accuse the “whiny teacher”.

    The point you’re failing to grasp is that while yes, you may face SOME of the same challenges she faces, your job does not affect the lives and well-being of anyone but yourself. I do not believe that lives will be negatively impacted if you fail to produce a story by your deadline. However, if a teacher fails in his/her job, it COULD negatively impact the lives of many children. For instance, a student who has sub-par English instruction may not learn to read properly early on in school, which in turn will impact his/her language abilities for many years to come, causing a dislike of reading and/or writing, leading to that person NOT becoming a journalist. OR, a person who does not receive the fundamentals in mathematics because of a poor mathematics education in elementary school is ill-prepared for middle or high school mathematics, and we may lose the next great physicist, or engineer. There is more to a teacher working hard than just the teacher.

    Secondly, you fall into the trap of being “whiny” yourself. Everything that the teacher says, you have to match it, and even one-up it. “You’re up early? Well, I’m up earlier. You make $28k? I wish. You buy your own supplies? So do I, and I don’t get a DISCOUNT!” It would work, if it didn’t sound…petty. You say that you are disgusted that the teacher has “so little grit”, yet you are “traumatized that anyone considers this rant a rallying cry”? Where’s your grit?

    Two more points. You say you attended the finest university in Kansas. Who educated you there? Was it teachers?

    And also…

    I am a teacher in North Carolina.

  5. I am a journalist too but I am married to a teacher. Madam journalist from Kansas you are WRONG. I got my first fulltime broadcast job while in my last semester of college making a meager $13,500. I was in definite shock at the lowly salary. By the time I left that college town two years later, I was making $18,500. I got a new job in a top ten market starting at $34,000. Four years and a lot of time, sweat and sacrifices later, I was making $48,000. I moved to a new station in the same market but to a job with more responsibility. My new salary jumped to $63,000 and two years after that $68,000. It took me less than 10 years to reach that salary.
    I had experience and later the power of negotiation on my side. Teachers are set to a timetable. They get x amount no matter their experience and that’s pretty much it. The profession in most cases can come with varying stipends for some positions but mainly just ESL teachers(English as a second language), science and specidal eduation. Teachers know when they start their career roughly what they’ll make when they retire. A Master’s degree gets a teacher a couple thousand extra but not as much as what they paid to get the Master’s in the first place.
    While I worked on my career, my husband finished his college degree, got his certification and his first teaching job. He’d worked at psyc hospitals with brain injury youth and troubled kids while still in college but decided teaching was the career path best suited to him. He could’ve made more in the private/business sector but teaching suits him and he’s the type person most parents want teaching their kids. The problem is, my husband will have to work for the school system for 20+ years before he can EVER come close to the salary I made when I left broadcasting and became a freelance journalist and graphic designer.
    I wonder dear Kansas journalist if maybe you aren’t cut out for your career field. Why are you only in the 31st market and not higher? At least in your field, I know salaries go up. I also wonder if you have ever volunteered at your local elementary or high school. In most cases, you don’t have to have kids in the school but you do have to have a background check. Have you ever had to juggle 20 kindergarteners at one time? They don’t all follow directions you know. I am sure you’ve never called a parent to tell them that their child has behavior problems only to have a parent refuse to deal with the situation. Or have your job put at risk if you don’t get 20 kids to pass a test.
    My husband has worked with the regular ed and special ed high school students. Many don’t have parents in the picture, some live in boys homes or foster homes. Most often, there is no parental figure to whom my husband can even report bad behavior, bad grades or excellent behavior and grades. Many who do have parents in the picture are too busy with their own careers and other issues to deal with problems. They want the teachers to just “handle” it. Then there are parents who are diligently there each day helping in classrooms, volunteering where able and they still have problems from time to time that have to be addressed.
    Teachers spend a ridiculous amount of money setting up their classrooms, providing pencils and paper for kids whose parents can’t afford it or just don’t supply it. We have been through lean times where I could barely afford my child’s school supplies and medicine but we scraped so that my husband would have paper and pencils to teach other people’s kids. Ms. Kansas journalist complained she had to buy a camera and a recorder. Wow! At least if you quit your job those are items of value and function you can use. Many teachers don’t even keep the same classrooms from year to year or stay in the same grade level. Plus many their items are consumables, they get used by a class and have to be replaced for the next year.
    I do agree there are other jobs with hardships and I don’t dare negate those hardships or those professions. But this Florida teacher was simply making a point about her profession. I believe we entrust our future to teachers with the understanding that some who enter the field aren’t right for the job and may need to leave. But, if you want a good future for your kids you pay teachers a worthy salary or lower the cost of benefits to make up the difference. Teachers are reveered in other countries like China. They understand the value of teachers. Many teachers I know, especially those who are main income earners, single or windowed, have to find summer jobs just to make ends meet. This is no small feat considering they are asking someone to hire them for just two months. Many companies don’t want to waste time training them for such a small work period.
    This year, one of the local school districts surrounding us is freezing salaries, taking away a sick day, adding to the class size and taking away all stipends except for ESL (English as a second language)teachers. Another district, is expected to freeze all hiring. This impacts the kids as well as the teachers.
    I also think about other people who knock the teaching profession, but when times get lean and jobs get cut they jump into the teaching profession, fulltime or as a substitute, like a fish looking for water.
    My prayers go out to all teachers as they gear up for another school year.

  6. If somebody doesn’t like their job then they should make a change. If I worked 8 months a year as a teacher I wouldn’t complain. Once I had the lesson plans figured out and could recycle them year after year I wouldn’t complain. I wouldn’t complain if my teacher’s union kept me from being fired even if I am lazy and lackluster.

    After all I knew the score before spending 4 years in college to become a teacher.

    I don’t think that Danedri was really complaining about her job. She was trying to make a point that everyone has their challenges at work and the teacher was being whiney. Also that she knows what the job is and enjoys it. If not she would make a change. Sarcasm and satire get lost on some people.

  7. @Jack – It’s not about liking or not liking one’s job, it’s about being treated as a professional, and being fairly compensated for doing a job well.
    Teachers don’t work 8 months a year, they are contracted for 10. However, a teacher who does his/her job well works on weekends, “breaks/holidays”, and even during “summer vacation”. Recycling lesson plans doesn’t always work either, because of many factors. You teach different students with different needs every year, the curriculum gets rewritten (all too often), you may even end up teaching different grade levels, or subjects (at the whims of the principal) each year. This makes recycling lesson plans near impossible. In some cases, it’s even difficult to teach the same plan to the same subject in the same day (e.g. 1st and 2nd period English I) because the students in the classes are DIFFERENT PEOPLE! Also, not all states have teachers’ unions. Many southern states do not allow teachers to unionize. And if you are a horrible teacher, not even a union should allow you to keep your job.
    As to this editorial being satire…no. It’s not. Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” was satire. This editorial was one person bashing another. Jamee Miller’s essay was simply trying to express her frustration at being asked to do so much when being given so little. And bashing that’s not satire, it’s just…mean.

  8. Betty Collette says:

    First of all, her name is Jamee, not Jammee!

    Second, Jamee is not whining – she wrote a well-thought out essay about what it is like to be a teacher. She happens to be in Florida but honestly, the same conditions can be found throughout our great nation. She loves her job but wants others to understand what it is like to be a teacher today. Since when is DISCUSSING the conditions under which one works construed as WHINING? I repeat, Jamee is not whining, she is stating facts.

    Third, your choice of profession and Jamee’s choice of profession is just that, a CHOICE. However, your choice does not have a long-term affect on a great many people while Jamee’s does. Your choice is not bound by state and federal mandates but Jamee’s is. And more often than not, those mandates are dreamed up by people who truly have little or no idea what it is REALLY like being in the trenches of teaching; rather, they THINK they know what is best and how to address the issues when their decisions are driven by ignorance or greed, not understanding.

    Finally, yes there ARE teachers who earn a great deal more than Jamee – many from states that are controlled by unions (see New Jersey). There are teachers that have more support and districts that have more money. However, overall teachers ARE paid less that most other professions that require a college degree (or even masters or doctorate degrees). Personally, I worked as a non-degreed accountant prior to entering the teaching profession. After getting a degree in education, it took me seven (7!) years of teaching to match what I earned in accounting! That is sad, but again, we do not go into the teaching profession to make money; we do it to touch, change, and improved the lives of others. Can you say that about your own profession?

    You say Jamee works for you and should look for another job. Well, are YOU prepared to take over? How about spending one day in a classroom to see if you can handle all that is expected. No, try one week, one month, one grading period, then see if you are still glib and whiny/sniviling yourself – you really ought to be ashamed of yourself for producing such a mean-spirited piece of drivel that tries to masquerade as writing. I would hate to work with you.

  9. Ms Thompson is the epitome of whinny don’t take it personal.

  10. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    Heart-broken teacher grieves over inability to connect with student:
    http://rturner229.blogspot.com/2010/08/few-thoughts-about-brendan-garrett.html

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