Danedri Thompson
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.