You can listen to Mitchell Robinson read and discuss this now-viral essay here:
It seems like every day now we see another one of these stories that are supposed to be “heartwarming,” or show how “dedicated” teachers and other school personnel are…
- this superintendent spent 90 hours per week this summer repainting his school to save $150,000!
- this teacher battling cancer ran out of sick days, and his colleagues “showered” him with enough of their sick days to cover the semester!
But here’s the real truth:
- that painter-superintendent spent 90 hours a week over the summer *not* doing his real job of running the district, and then hired students for a fraction of what professional painters would have been paid–thus denying those workers an opportunity to make the money they need to support their families.
- and that teacher, who had taught at his school for 23 years, had burned through his sick days because he was undergoing chemotherapy and surgery for colon cancer.
No other profession is expected to do this kind of thing. If you asked the CEO or VP of any small- to medium-sized corporation to spend 90 hours per week repainting the company’s offices, that person would laugh in your face–and explain to you that it’s not their job to paint walls; it’s their job to manage the operations of the business. And they’d be right.
And if you asked the executive director of a professional organization to pay their own way on a business trip, they’d look at you like you had a third eye growing out of your forehead, and tell you that if the organization expects them to attend these meetings, then it’s their responsibility to pay for it. And they’d be right.
Yet school teachers are expected to:
- paint their own rooms;
- install their own air conditioners, and mini-fridges, and tv monitors, and speakers, and screens, and projectors, and power strips (if the district approves such “luxuries”)
- buy the books, posters, tissues and other materials they need for their classrooms out of pocket;
- pay for their own plane tickets, and hotel rooms, food, and substitute teachers to cover their classes when attending professional development conferences (if they can even get the time off to do so).
And not to complain about it either…because blah blah blah summers off blah blah love kids blah blah blah teaching is a calling.
And listen to self-appointed “education experts” lecture them that “they knew what they were getting in to when they chose to be teachers”, even as benefits are cut, tenure is eliminated, and union-protections are eroded.
And hear about how “the schools are failing” even as they are purposefully starved of resources, or how “families deserve choice” even as the demands of parents to adequately fund their children’s schools are ignored by state legislatures and national policy think tanks.
And still, they do it. For the kids. Or for their own growth. Or because they think it’s the right thing to do.
As we see beginning teachers with 4 and 5 year college degrees and hundreds of thousands of dollars in school loan debt offered salaries in the low $30ks, how can we continue expecting these persons to also subsidize the education of their students when our communities will not?
And how can we expect a teacher with 23 years of experience to go begging his colleagues to give up their sick days so he can get the medical treatment he so desperately needs?
These stories aren’t “heartwarming” and they don’t show “dedication”. They demonstrate that we as a society are unwilling to spend our resources on supporting and caring for the schools and teachers that we entrust with the support and care of our children–and refuse to treat the persons we entrust their care to as professionals, or even as human beings deserving of our respect and some basic human dignity.
You know what would be “heartwarming”?
It would be heartwarming for the superintendent to not have to paint his own school, to not feel as though he needs to undercut other professionals by using cheap student labor, and for his students to start the school year with a professionally-painted classroom.
It would be heartwarming for an experienced professional battling the fight of his life to not have to worry about depending on the kindness of his colleagues to get the medical care he needs.
And it would really be heartwarming to start this new school year by treating public school teachers like professionals–or simply as we ourselves would like to be treated, with just a little common decency.
And maybe a fresh coat of paint for their classrooms.