Education, Labor — December 16, 2012 at 12:58 pm

How much would you pay someone to take a bullet for your child?


Why would you hire a greedy parasite to watch and teach your children all day?

Teaching is a tough profession. It always has been, but lately it has become so much tougher thanks to the anti-union attacks teachers and other public employees. It’s becoming harder and harder to understand why anyone would want to be a public school teacher these days.

The anti-union attacks on teachers have been around for decades, starting with idea that teachers get paid a full-time salary but really don’t work full-time; that their cushy workdays end at 3:00 and they have summers off. This is a very shortsighted view and, if you know anyone who teaches, you know how hard they work and how much of that work goes well past 3:00 and the month of May. Often the lines between their personal life and professional life are blurred. To most teachers, teaching is really a calling more than a job.

Yes, there are bad teachers, just like there are bad police officers, lawyers, doctors and priests. There are bad people in every profession, but the good teachers far out weigh the bad. Again, I ask why anyone would want to be a public school teacher these days? We ask the near-impossible from these people and now, thanks to the swell of anti-union rhetoric since 2010, ask the near-impossible of teachers while portraying them as blood-sucking parasites.

And yet, there are still millions of men and women who get up early each morning and head to schools all over this country to wait for the arrival of our children. They then spend their entire day teaching them, caring for them, and protecting them, all for a very modest salary.

Tina Doepker, a elementary art teacher for the Southgate Community School District near Detroit (shown with some of her students in the photo on the left), told me that the teachers have moved past the money issue and onto the issue of teaching & learning conditions. They are fearful that, without the unions, certain aspects of their teaching environment that they have worked to maintain will get chipped away. This includes classroom size, start time and adequate breaks for the kids and teachers. They are also concerned about the breakdown of a what is, right now, a positive relationship with their administrators.

“We worry that the public no longer values what we do,” Doepker told me. “We aren’t looking to be put on a pedestal. We are just asking to be able do our jobs.”

Teaching has become a thankless job. So why do we still have so many dedicated people willing to do the work? It’s because they love children. They love teaching. They are thanked in a much less public way. They are motivated to do their job because of our kids. They are reminded day in and day out of why they teach when they see their students grow and learn.

I asked Tina would she still teach if things got worse. She said without a doubt, “Yes, It’s who I am.”

It is for this reason that teachers may be the most vulnerable public employee union members, the most vulnerable to attacks on union members that is only escalating.

On Thursday morning in the small town Newtown, Connecticut, we were reminded multiple times of just how special these men and women who spend their days with our children are.

The gunfire erupted during first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig’s morning meeting with her 14 students, what she called “a happy, amazing part of the day.” {…}

“When the shooting began, Roig said she quickly got up and closed her classroom door and ushered the children, all aged 6 and 7, into the class bathroom. She helped some climb onto the toilet so they could all fit. Roig said she then pushed a wheeled storage unit in front of the door.

“We all got in there. I locked us in,” she said. “I don’t know if [the gunman] came in the room… I just told them we have to be absolutely quiet.”

“If they started crying, I would take their face and tell them, ‘It’s going to be OK,'” Roig continued. “I wanted that to be the last thing they heard, not the gunfire in the hall.”

“I thought we were all going to die,” she said through tears. “I told the kids I love them and I was so happy they were my students… I said anyone who believed in the power of the prayer, we need to pray and those who don’t believe in prayer” think happy thoughts.

And then there’s THIS about two teachers who lost their lives trying to protect the children in her class.

“Newtown special-education teacher Anne Marie Murphy, 52, died Friday using her body to shield the students she loved, authorities told her 
father, Hugh McGowan of Katonah, N.Y., 
according to Newsday. Her body was found in a classroom, they told him, covering a group of children who died in the shooting.”

“A first responder said she was a hero,” he said.

The sixth of seven children, Murphy “was a very good daughter, a good mother, a good wife,” her mother, Alice McGowan, said.

Lauren Rousseau, 30, had just been hired as a permanent substitute teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month and was felled in Friday’s rampage at her new school, her mother, Theresa Rousseau told the Daily Voice.

“Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten,” her mother said. “We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream.”

Enough is enough. We need to stop those who are demonizing our teachers. We can’t continue to thrive as a country if we keep this undeserved and totally destructive narrative going. At the very least — and I mean the absolute very least — we must let our public school teachers have a voice. They should be able to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions without being portrayed as greedy parasites. Not because they need more money (which they often do), but because our children need to learn in an environment suited for learning. Their voices are guides for how to help us teach our children and if those voices are silenced our country will suffer.

  • D

    This is great, though there is something messed up in the second box quote. It goes from talking about a woman named Anne to a woman named Lauren but seems like it’s supposed to be about one person?

    • Hah! You’re right. Just fixed it. Thanks for the catch.

      • D’Anne

        What can I say? I’m an English teacher. :)

  • kirke123

    x teacher. x union leader. teaching has always been a thankless job. the thanks is found in the faces of those little children who have put all their faith in you, their teacher. the unions have always worked to achieve a stronger area of safety and trust and there will always be those who know nothing about education ready to kick a dead dog.
    thanks for the article and the respect.

  • Lee in Ohio

    I find this article horrendous considering multiple children have lost their lives. Not quite the time to climb on your soapbox.

    • kel

      Yes, and so did the teachers who were trying to save them. You are clearly blinded by ignorance and missed the point. The point is not to take away from the fact that 20 young children lives were taken from them, but to remind people that had it not been for the brave and underappreciated teachers, more children would have been taken from this world as well.

    • Beppo

      Was this too soon for you? Are your sensibilities offended? Why don’t you go sit with the NRA until this (hopefully! Am I right?) blows over. You’ll be Yosemite Sam-ming it up again in no time.

      • Chris

        Taking away guns from the responsible is not an answer for the irresponsible. We have been taking away things from people for decades just to have them get their hands on things anyway. Realize that this person was sick and demented. Beppo, do you lack moral judgement? Do you lack tact? I believe you do if you support someone who is attempting to exploit this tragedy. I hope you are not in a classroom right now, nor do I ever hope you own any kind of weapon.

        • Beppo

          Oh, no, Chris! Thankfully, I don’t own a weapon, which means more guns for you and your insane buddies on the right.

          • Chris

            What does being right or left have anything to do with this? I know people on both sides of the spectrum that are reasonable and competent that own weapons. Banning them only allows those who already break the law to have them. I wish that you would think reasonably and not preach to those who are more knowledgeable about the subject. You said it yourself that you don’t own a weapon. I am a social studies teacher who just finished a unit on the Bill of Rights. Citizens have the right to own guns, plain and simple. Do I advocate for assault weapons? No! I advocate that I have the right to own a gun for recreational use and to protect myself from anyone who may have one. I have the right to keep a government in check that could (not likely) become a threat to our individual rights. What do you teach? Do you teach to your students that only your way is the correct way or do you teach that they have the right to explore other options and possibilities? When can we get rid of guns? When were live in a utopian society that lives without fear and without people who will manipulate the law. Until then, I will own a gun. I will teach my kids to treat it with respect. I will teach my kids to respect life. This is my decision as a parent, regardless of what our dear president has to say. America is weak because we are teaching our students and children that they can always pass blame onto someone else. How about they or YOU take responsibility for their actions?

  • Carolyn 4444

    As a retired teacher, I can only praise and stand in awe of my fellow teachers who do so much with so little for so long….You are heroes in my eyes & always will be!

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  • Underfire

    After reading this I am still dumbfounded that our Republican Governor, Rick Snyder, of Michigan, is still saying he can’t decide on bills that are to be on his desk for signing soon. One bill concerns whether or not individuals who get some “enhansed” training can carry a concealed weapon in schools and in churches in Michigan. Yes, I said a concealed weapon in schools! As of this writing, he is still unsure if he will sign. By the way………..I’m a teacher in Michigan. Please help protect us from people like this.

  • Chris

    I am both proud to say I am an educator (because of what the ladies did in Newtown) and dismayed (because of the comments found in this article). I am sickened by the comment found in this article. The union should never look to take advantage of a tragedy such as this. Advocating for a better rep or more pay in the wake of six of us and twenty of our students being murdered. This makes us out to look even worse. I commend what the ladies did in the school and I hope that I would do the same, but never to make us look better. I would do it because it was right. I’m tired of hearing about the union this and union that. Please do what is in the best interest of our students and not the pocket books of politicians or the bureaucratic union. Please help to give us a respectable profession back by not using this tragedy as leverage or justification. Do what is right.

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