Blame the fact that I am looney these days. Maybe the lack of sleep or the amount of stress I’m under is forcing my fingers to strike the keys of this computer right now. Whatever it is that is making me do this, there is a desperate fire in my heart that needs to be released. Right here. Right now. I, Amanda Jeanette Schripsema, am about to go political.
I am as moderate as they get. Every “political” test I have taken places me smack-dab in the center of the chaos. I have voted for people, not parties. With that in mind as my little disclaimer, I am ready to unleash…
I have compiled a list of “myths” that I have seen floating around the media lately, and I am noticing these myths gaining popularity and support on Facebook. These myths must be exposed for what they are: lies. I am a fan of celebrating positive myths like unicorns, fairies, and toy-loving-elves…but not this negative garbage:
1. “Teaching is a part-time job.” If you say that to me, be prepared for me to let you have it. When it comes to planning, grading, meetings, curriculum mapping, all of it: I am at the school from 7a.m. to 5 every single day. I could stay much longer. I always have to leave when I still have a million more things to do. I work weekends. I go into my class and start setting up and preparing in July (school is out mid-June). As soon as school is out in June, I begin taking classes to keep my certification updated. I pay for these classes out of my salary. Let’s not forget what we take home every single day. This does not only include paperwork, this includes students who weigh heavy on our hearts and minds. When one of my students was taken away from her parents and put into foster care, I legitimately and desperately tried to find a way to adopt her. We love our students with an unconditional heart. Part-time? Hardly.
2. “Teachers have PAID summers!” People! Here is the truth: We have a salary. That amount is the fixed payment alloted for the school year. If we choose, we can get paid that amount while school is in session, or we can choose to get it spread out all year long (throughout the summer). We are paid workers with a salary. There are no “paid vacations.” Ugh.
3. “If we get rid of teaching bargaining rights, the students will benefit and we’ll see improvements in their test scores.” Hmmmm… Let’s look at the facts on that one, shall we? There are only 5 states in the country that do not have collective bargaining rights for teachers. Below are their ranking based on ACT/SAT performance:
49. North Carolina
50. South Carolina
Thanks to my elementary music teacher, I know that there are “Fifty, Nifty United States…” So, those numbers do not portray how this will “help” our students. Looks to me, on this stat alone, it actually is hurting them.
4. “We should pay teachers based on performance.” This is the most horrible idea I have ever heard. Texas does this (47th in ranking…hmmm…). If we want our children to grow to be adults who only know how to answer in multiple choice fashion, deplete their brain cells, and not have other NEEDED skills such as debate, problem solving, collaboration with peers (to name a few), we will crumble. Where does music fit in? Art? Ingenuity? Weren’t we the country founded on principles of discovery and technological advances? These ideals will be gone as teachers will be forced to “teach to the test” in order to get paid. Where do lab studies/experiments in science fit in? Teachers will covet “advanced” students while those who struggle will be left in the dust. Differentiating the classroom to teach to the specific needs of a child will be abandoned. I could go on forever about why this is an awful idea.
5. “Teacher Unions are for whiney teachers who demand more, more, more! They never put students first.” There is a common misconception that unions only bargain for pay. This is not true. Bargaining is involved with class size, calendar dates, sick days, etc. So, if a union is bargaining for lower class sizes in order to better reach each individual child, how is this NOT putting students first? Also, there is not one teacher who goes into the profession for pay. Period. Let’s lay that one to rest. If you even try to call teachers “glorified babysitters,” please be prepared to hear how that pay would be much heftier if we were paid even 3 dollars an hour per student (less than any babysitter I’ve ever hired). In essence, that is just plain ignorant… Unfortunately, I have seen that several times in “status updates” and I feel ill from it every time.
6. “Teachers work for ME! I’m the taxpayer!” Ahem. I am also a tax payer and a teacher… Hmmm, this one is a brain-drainer that just circles itself, isn’t it?
7. “Teachers are paid much more than the majority of the public sector.” This one is quoted on certain news programs quite often. If this quote is unsheathed for what it is, it comes down to this: They are comparing teachers pay with the entire public, most of those without a college education. After four years of college, teachers begin teaching in Michigan for a starting pay of about 35,000 a year. It takes awhile to start earning 50,000. I would like to hear the logic behind the fact that it is unfair for a teacher to be making more than someone without a degree. Oh, yeah. There is no logic.
8. “Collective bargaining doesn’t really help individual teachers, it just takes away from everyone’s pay. They really aren’t concerned with individual matters, so teachers shouldn’t pay dues to the union.” Okay, this is the one, I think, that has caused me to pen this rant in the first place. I have never been overly pro-union before, I will admit. Nine years ago, as a first year teacher, I would look longingly at that amount of money that was “wasted” towards my dues when I just wanted to pay my bills. Now, I will tell you something the union has done for me: it has enabled me to stay home with my son as soon as he was diagnosed with cancer. Did the school lose money? No. Actually, the teachers “bargained” to allow other employees to donate their sick days to me. A teacher in Wisconsin is NO LONGER able to bargain with sick days/vacation days…nothing. Those rights have now been officially stripped. If I were a teacher in Wisconsin, I would have had to go back to work or go bankrupt from medical bills. Am I willing to pay the union now? Absolutely and enthusiastically. It saved my son’s life, I am convinced. I am case in point in how the Union helps the “little guy” — more accurately, a little fuzzy-headed three-year-old.
I am not saying that this is a battle between parties: Democrat versus Republican. I am saying that having a voice in our working environment is essential in keeping a Democratic country. Employers aren’t always voluntarily generous. There are exceptions, like in the case of my employers at Mattawan, but I realize how rare they are and how most employers focus more on the bottom line (and who can blame them?). Why do we have a five-day work week? Why is the workday capped at eight-hours? Why is there a minimum wage? Why are there children labor laws? Why are we able to have pension funds? It’s all because of labor unions.
Please don’t simply drink the Kool-aid just because of your political party affiliation (or the news program you choose to watch). Educate yourself…or, you could have a teacher help you.