Stop Trash Talking Teachers

“If you can’t get a job, become a teacher. If you can’t teach, teach PE.”

A student told me a joke that he heard from his dad. Teachers get a bad rap.

Too many people see teaching as the fall back venue when more profitable career choices fail. No one ever enters the field for the pay, yet critics argue that overpaid teachers have too many vacation days.

Though poor teaching exists, do not dis teachers in front of me. My grandparents, parents, sisters, sister-in-laws, and many high school and college classmates dedicated their lives to educating youth.

Teachers give back to society with no string attached. My grandparents offered free room and board to athletes unable to afford college tuition, my parents provided meals before and after games, rides to and from extracurricular activities; and every summer, my sisters and I exchange professional development strategies.

teaching in the streets of Obernai (Alsace, France)

teaching in the streets of Obernai (Alsace, France)

Every teacher I know has lain awake at 4 am, wondering how to inspire students to calculate faster, write more accurately and read more comprehensively.

Each year, I learn how to teach another concept, in a new way, with the latest, greatest tech aid. All of which are programmed to DELETE personal contact at a time when society is moving so fast, few have time to attend to the real needs of the next generation of kids. Then once we alter everything, some guru of education develops a new groundbreaking theory that looks exactly like the model we used a decade ago.  In the end, like my mom knows, “everything I need to know, I really learned in kindergarten.”

Teachers may be our last link to kids, who are becoming increasingly more in sync with electronics and less tuned in to human beings.

Teachers are often blamed for society’s shortcomings, from children’s lower IQs and falling test scores, to lack of social skills. When the family disintegrates, the school is expected to pick up the slack by developing the children’s self-esteem and social graces that are no longer acquired in our homes and neighborhoods.

Cushy job? Summers off? Holidays a go-go? Teachers I know give up weekends, work late nights and put in overtime without pay. They do homework, grade papers on weekends, counsel kids during their planning time and coach on weeknights.

How does one measure the value of a good teacher? What test score reflects the life of every child successfully nurtured into adulthood through the guidance of an educator? TLC does not count on appraisals. No one is paid extra for kindness. Yet the teachers, who shaped my life, took the time to wipe away children’s tears, to console troubled adolescents and to stand in for kids when others couldn’t.

Ask a grown child who was the most significant mentor in their lives outside of family members, they will name a teacher or a coach.

My son, a senior at one of the Midwest’s best academic colleges, is studying to be a teacher. Yet teacher’s pension programs are depleted, salaries blocked, and stress levels are at an all time high. I applaud his career choice, for the greater the social instability, economic distress and global strive, the more our world need more bright, capable, caring teachers.

Teachers never get enough credit for the great lengths they go to to motivate kids!

Check this out! The Armstrong staff in a Minneapolis suburban school show support before homecoming, Shaker Heights educators in Greater Cleveland area use ingenuity to teach the Making of a Molecule, and teachers at my alma mater, Sterling High School, step up to stay on beat to the modern day demands of our profession before a Homecoming football game.  Let’s give it up to the teachers for getting down to inspire kids!

Posted in education, humor, inspiration, relationships.

58 Comments

  1. Oh Mary Helen, what a heartwarming story about keeping in touch with your students throughout the decades. Once a teacher, always a teacher!

  2. Hi, Pat,
    Funny you write about this. It is a 3-day weekend here for us, and I have been up since 5:30 grading and planning so that I might have a few minutes to myself and my family this weekend. Doing that dance was a blast, and we heard all kinds of incredible compliments from the kids–they loved our silliness.
    We always ask them to step out of their comfort zones and try things. It was our turn!
    You rock!

    • Laura-this blog was inspired by the video you posted of SHS staff dancing on the finest basketball court on earth. I am always amazed by the quality of facilities and staff at SHS and feel grateful that I grew up in Sterling. Yes, you are right, as teachers we ask kids to step out their comfort zone and what I have found is the moment I dare to do something different, especially in my English class, the more they get out of the lesson. So keep on dancin’!!!

    • Laura, I loved it! which one are you..i must look closer! Our Elem teachers at ML do a dance or drum line or something in our end of year talent show and its always a blast that the students LOVE! Thanks for making a difference Teach!

  3. Hi, Pat,
    Funny you write about this. It is a 3-day weekend here for us, and I have been up since 5:30 grading and planning so that I might have a few minutes to myself and my family this weekend. Doing that dance was a blast, and we heard all kinds of incredible compliments from the kids–they loved our silliness.
    We always ask them to step out of their comfort zones and try things. It was our turn!
    You rock!

  4. Pat, I have a plaque in my office from a former nursing student of mine that I treasure: “Teaching is to touch a life forever.” Of all the roles I had in my 44 year nursing career, teaching was by far the most challenging and yet most rewarding of all. My daughter is a High School Spanish teacher and I tease her (tongue-in-cheek)about having such a cushy job with summers and holidays off, knowing full well from my own experience that it is anything but cushy. Excellent post,Pat. My hat is off to all teachers and the contributions they make in the lives they touch everyday.

    • Kath, I should have mentioned all the teaching that goes on in other professions and nurse are teaching patience, healthy habits, and compassion everyday. Interesting that with your background, your daughter should become a Spanish teacher, instead of Italian prof. Did you ever speak Italian with her as a child? I want to thank you, too, for all the teaching you continue to do through your blog, Memoir Writer’s Journey http://krpooler.com/

  5. Pat, I have a plaque in my office from a former nursing student of mine that I treasure: “Teaching is to touch a life forever.” Of all the roles I had in my 44 year nursing career, teaching was by far the most challenging and yet most rewarding of all. My daughter is a High School Spanish teacher and I tease her (tongue-in-cheek)about having such a cushy job with summers and holidays off, knowing full well from my own experience that it is anything but cushy. Excellent post,Pat. My hat is off to all teachers and the contributions they make in the lives they touch everyday.

    • Kath, I should have mentioned all the teaching that goes on in other professions and nurse are teaching patience, healthy habits, and compassion everyday. Interesting that with your background, your daughter should become a Spanish teacher, instead of Italian prof. Did you ever speak Italian with her as a child? I want to thank you, too, for all the teaching you continue to do through your blog, Memoir Writer’s Journey http://krpooler.com/

  6. An example of what teachers do for students….no extra pay….from a friend and current teacher…on her Facebook.

    On Monday I bundled and tied a pickup truck full of corn stalks. Yesterday another teacher, Beth, and I hauled 200 pumpkins in two trucks from a pumpkin farm to the school. Today we hauled 200 mums, and we put all these items on two wagons. Tomorrow evening we’ll be pulling these wagons around the streets of Manteno for our freshman class fundraiser. So, if a freshman student knocks on your door and asks, “Would you like to buy?”, please say yes! The pumpkins are big and beautiful and sell for $5, a real bargain considering their ample size. The mums, in a multitude of colors, sell for $6 each, and the cornstalk bundles for $2. Saturday morning from 8:00-noon, we’ll be selling from our wagon at Heritage Park across from the elementary school. If interested, reply to this, call me, stop by the school, or open your door generously to the kids! Thanks!!!!!

    • Oh, Peggy, Too bad you can’t send me one of those big, beautiful pumpkins in an email attachment. Thanks for sharing the heartwarming example of how teachers never stop giving even after retirement. Your community is blessed to have you in town! Good luck with the fund raiser.

  7. Amen, sister. I am so glad my kids are teachers, but there’s no easy ride. My DIL came home from teaching 33 six-year-olds today. She walked in the house with a stack of papers to grade. But it’s not easy for non-teachers, either, who often bring work home. The politicos try to divide us into teams, us against them, the stay-at-home vs. working moms is another. Teachers (oh, those lazy, fat-cat union members!) vs. Those Who Labor To Pay Teachers’ Inflated Salaries. It’s a false conflict. PS please remind everybody that teachers don’t get paid when they’re off. They get paid only for days on the job, and sick leave, usually one day a month. The fact that teachers only teach 9.5 months a year is due to lack of funds and lack of interest by governance in having an educated populace. (Wow, good coffee this morning. Sorry about the rant!)

  8. Amen, sister. I am so glad my kids are teachers, but there’s no easy ride. My DIL came home from teaching 33 six-year-olds today. She walked in the house with a stack of papers to grade. But it’s not easy for non-teachers, either, who often bring work home. The politicos try to divide us into teams, us against them, the stay-at-home vs. working moms is another. Teachers (oh, those lazy, fat-cat union members!) vs. Those Who Labor To Pay Teachers’ Inflated Salaries. It’s a false conflict. PS please remind everybody that teachers don’t get paid when they’re off. They get paid only for days on the job, and sick leave, usually one day a month. The fact that teachers only teach 9.5 months a year is due to lack of funds and lack of interest by governance in having an educated populace. (Wow, good coffee this morning. Sorry about the rant!)

    • Wow Lynne, you are right on target here. Could you send me some of that good coffee to sharpen up my brain? ha Yes, I know from husband in the business sector that in so many professions, not only teaching, workers have to be on call 24/7. The stay-at-home vs working moms battle must be a male fueled political issue because ALL the women I know are working – contributing to our future whether or not it is within the home or outside of it. Can’t believe your daughter’s class size…33 six-years in one room…the critics always fail to mention the class size! Bon courage and kudos to your kids. Keep up the great work.

  9. Pat, I don’t know if you remember me from ISU, Teri Mullen Lodesky. Mary sent out your blog awhile back, and I’ve been reading them with delight. This one really struck a chord. I, too, am a teacher, and find it so frustrating when people talk about how easy teachers have it. I would love to have one of those people sit in any classroom in my school for a day. As you said, we are not only teaching academics, but working on all of the daily living and social skills that busy or disinterested families fail to teach at home. I commend any student who chooses to be a teacher in this day and age. They have to know that they will not make a lot of money and will not always be appreciated. It shows a true passion and desire to make a difference in children’s lives.

    • Amen, Teri. So great to hear from you and glad you are enjoying the blog. Yes, I do remember you from ISU days. Are you teaching in the Chicago area? Those who have never spent a day on the front lines, have no clue what awaits us every morning. We put out fires, settle disputes, break up fights, instill common courtesy, and exemplify integrity as well as teach. I am going to make sure that my son sees your comments. Thanks so much writing.

  10. Pat, I don’t know if you remember me from ISU, Teri Mullen Lodesky. Mary sent out your blog awhile back, and I’ve been reading them with delight. This one really struck a chord. I, too, am a teacher, and find it so frustrating when people talk about how easy teachers have it. I would love to have one of those people sit in any classroom in my school for a day. As you said, we are not only teaching academics, but working on all of the daily living and social skills that busy or disinterested families fail to teach at home. I commend any student who chooses to be a teacher in this day and age. They have to know that they will not make a lot of money and will not always be appreciated. It shows a true passion and desire to make a difference in children’s lives.

    • Amen, Teri. So great to hear from you and glad you are enjoying the blog. Yes, I do remember you from ISU days. Are you teaching in the Chicago area? Those who have never spent a day on the front lines, have no clue what awaits us every morning. We put out fires, settle disputes, break up fights, instill common courtesy, and exemplify integrity as well as teach. I am going to make sure that my son sees your comments. Thanks so much writing.

  11. Where would our world’s children be without great teachers? I applaud your passion and dedication,Pat!

    Great stuff…

    • Thanks Clara. I know you too have been teaching your whole life, as a mother, nurse, and writer giving all of of us the courage to embrace our Authentic selves.

  12. Where would our world’s children be without great teachers? I applaud your passion and dedication,Pat!

    Great stuff…

  13. Sis,
    Muchos gracias Sister and fellow Teach! Your timing is perfect. I needed a reminder of why I went in to teaching in spite of long hours, under appreciated, bombarding expectations from just about all over… to make a difference in one child’s life.
    I will be sharing this blog! 🙂

  14. Sis,
    Muchos gracias Sister and fellow Teach! Your timing is perfect. I needed a reminder of why I went in to teaching in spite of long hours, under appreciated, bombarding expectations from just about all over… to make a difference in one child’s life.
    I will be sharing this blog! 🙂

  15. I too joined the ranks of teaching for just 2 years and then I married and became a farm wife but I never lost the love of teaching…I still keep in touch with my pupils of 70 years ago…

    • Oh Mary Helen, what a heartwarming story about keeping in touch with your students throughout the decades. Once a teacher, always a teacher!

  16. Pat, you’re so right about the influence teachers have on our lives. One of my dearest friends as an adult was my eighth-grade reading teacher. She and I corresponded over the years and had some memorable visits. She was a prolific letter writer. I still have her letters, which I put in a binder, along with all the clippings, theater programs and New Yorker cartoons she’d stuff into her plump packets to me. I can’t tell you how flattered I was when she sent me the chapters of her memoirs, for my feedback. And to think our friendship started when I was 13 and she was 50! And she took my own son under wing as if he were one of her grandchildren.

    Although I’m not a “teacher” per se, I like to pay it forward by mentoring young people. In recent years, I’ve enjoyed helping high school seniors with their college essays. In the coming weeks, I’m going to be skyping with college applicants at South Pasadena High School (in southern California) to help them with their personal statements for their applications. Because I’m now in Italy, we’ll be doing this on their lunch hour (to bridge the 9-hour time difference). I’m really looking forward to this.

    I strongly feel we all share a responsibility in helping young people find their way – to encourage them, spend time with them, talk to them about their fears and dreams. Parents and teachers shouldn’t shoulder this alone. We all need to extend a helping hand.

    • Oh, Rebecca, what a wonderful, uplifting story about your favorite 8th grade teacher and the long lasting friendship you formed. Just this weekend, one of my favorite former athletes on my Dream Team came over to work through revisions on my memoir. It was a humbling, inspiring moment to witness the gift of reciprocity in teaching. Whereas I once helped shaped her life in my role as a coach, she was now sharpening my writing voice as an editor.

      You are right teachers and parents need help in guiding young people on their journey.
      I commend your efforts! I admire you for your role mentoring, college bound Californian students in preparing personal statements even while living in Italy. I do hope you we will meet one day – we would have so many stories to share!

  17. Pat, you’re so right about the influence teachers have on our lives. One of my dearest friends as an adult was my eighth-grade reading teacher. She and I corresponded over the years and had some memorable visits. She was a prolific letter writer. I still have her letters, which I put in a binder, along with all the clippings, theater programs and New Yorker cartoons she’d stuff into her plump packets to me. I can’t tell you how flattered I was when she sent me the chapters of her memoirs, for my feedback. And to think our friendship started when I was 13 and she was 50! And she took my own son under wing as if he were one of her grandchildren.

    Although I’m not a “teacher” per se, I like to pay it forward by mentoring young people. In recent years, I’ve enjoyed helping high school seniors with their college essays. In the coming weeks, I’m going to be skyping with college applicants at South Pasadena High School (in southern California) to help them with their personal statements for their applications. Because I’m now in Italy, we’ll be doing this on their lunch hour (to bridge the 9-hour time difference). I’m really looking forward to this.

    I strongly feel we all share a responsibility in helping young people find their way – to encourage them, spend time with them, talk to them about their fears and dreams. Parents and teachers shouldn’t shoulder this alone. We all need to extend a helping hand.

    • Oh, Rebecca, what a wonderful, uplifting story about your favorite 8th grade teacher and the long lasting friendship you formed. Just this weekend, one of my favorite former athletes on my Dream Team came over to work through revisions on my memoir. It was a humbling, inspiring moment to witness the gift of reciprocity in teaching. Whereas I once helped shaped her life in my role as a coach, she was now sharpening my writing voice as an editor.

      You are right teachers and parents need help in guiding young people on their journey.
      I commend your efforts! I admire you for your role mentoring, college bound Californian students in preparing personal statements even while living in Italy. I do hope you we will meet one day – we would have so many stories to share!

  18. Another great read Pat. I know how much you have influenced all those students in the time that I had the pleasure to teach alongside you, and I know that I make a big difference now to the quality of teachers now that I am in the world of teacher training. We are a strange lot us long-term teachers, who join the ranks armed with passion to make a difference. This waxes and wanes as the years progress primarily due to seemingly endless policy changes and sheer body fatigue, but our students soothe our souls and make us reflect on what life is really about. I expect we have a similar effect on them at times (depending on the class!!). Hugs, Rach x

    • Oh Rach, you put it so well..”the passion waxes and wanes as the years progress primarily due endless policy change and body fatigue, but our students soothe our souls.” I learned so much from you as a fellow teacher when you were head of department and still use your lesson plans especially in dance & gymnastic. I also have adopted your British vocabulary…I am “on my knees” and “shattered” every Friday afternoon and “whinging” every Monday morning!

  19. You touched a lot of teachers with this one, Pat. Thanks for lifting us up with your words and reminding us that the rewards really can’t be measured- we carry the payoff in our hearts and hope that our students pay it forward.

  20. You touched a lot of teachers with this one, Pat. Thanks for lifting us up with your words and reminding us that the rewards really can’t be measured- we carry the payoff in our hearts and hope that our students pay it forward.

  21. Hi Patty,

    Way to champion our profession! Keep up the good work.

    I always encouraged my students to find their passion and then wrap a career around it. Some of them would inquire further as to what I meant by “passion” to which I would reply, “Do what you love, and love what you do!” As educators, when we observe students having “ah ha” moments, we know we are doing what we love and love what we are doing.

    One of my favorite quotes regarding our profession, “A teacher affects all of eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
    ~Henry B. Adams

    • Oh Peg, I love that line “find their passion and then wrap a career around it.” I am going to remind my 12th grade students of that as they begin preparing personal statements for college. Also love your Henry B. Adams quote. Do you miss teaching or is it more fun being a student again on an endless road trip? ha

  22. Hi Patty,

    Way to champion our profession! Keep up the good work.

    I always encouraged my students to find their passion and then wrap a career around it. Some of them would inquire further as to what I meant by “passion” to which I would reply, “Do what you love, and love what you do!” As educators, when we observe students having “ah ha” moments, we know we are doing what we love and love what we are doing.

    One of my favorite quotes regarding our profession, “A teacher affects all of eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
    ~Henry B. Adams

    • Oh Peg, I love that line “find their passion and then wrap a career around it.” I am going to remind my 12th grade students of that as they begin preparing personal statements for college. Also love your Henry B. Adams quote. Do you miss teaching or is it more fun being a student again on an endless road trip? ha

  23. Pat, thank you for showing the true aspect of teaching! Any chance you could come back to Illinois and run for office? Your thoughts and insights are truly missing in our state and national conversation about education today. As I am actually fearful about the future of education, you reminded me about the truths of teaching. Thank you & God Bless. Dave

    • Thanks for commenting,Dave. I roared at your line about running for office! ha I would be more likely to run from office, especially in Illinois. (kidding) Those of us who have been teaching for years see the perils that lie ahead when try to replace teachers with technologies. Retirement sounds very tempting. Let’s escape to Summit Lake where everything seems right with the world!

  24. The Facebook quote wasn’t about me, but a friend who is still teaching. Here is the payback from her students…from recent Facebook post. Students respond when modeling has been done for them.
    Friday night and Saturday I witnessed something very special. All week I’d been on pins and needles that our freshmen wouldn’t show up for their first fundraiser of high school after the other sponsor and I had bought and brought to the school earlier in the week 200 pumpkins, 200 mums, and 85 corn stalk bundles. On Friday night, they came and they sold in the cold and rain. On Saturday morning, more came, and again they worked and sold all over town until there wasn’t a single mum or pumpkin or corn stalk left. They made me laugh with the slogan they made up – “Mums the Word” and the sales pitch the boys tried on a couple moms of their classmates – “These mums are almost as lovely as you” and hearing one shout, “We hit the mother lode” after making an especially big sale. They met and surpassed our sales goal. They made me proud!
    OUR EDUCATION CLASSES NEVER COVERED EVENTS LIKE THIS!

  25. The Facebook quote wasn’t about me, but a friend who is still teaching. Here is the payback from her students…from recent Facebook post. Students respond when modeling has been done for them.
    Friday night and Saturday I witnessed something very special. All week I’d been on pins and needles that our freshmen wouldn’t show up for their first fundraiser of high school after the other sponsor and I had bought and brought to the school earlier in the week 200 pumpkins, 200 mums, and 85 corn stalk bundles. On Friday night, they came and they sold in the cold and rain. On Saturday morning, more came, and again they worked and sold all over town until there wasn’t a single mum or pumpkin or corn stalk left. They made me laugh with the slogan they made up – “Mums the Word” and the sales pitch the boys tried on a couple moms of their classmates – “These mums are almost as lovely as you” and hearing one shout, “We hit the mother lode” after making an especially big sale. They met and surpassed our sales goal. They made me proud!
    OUR EDUCATION CLASSES NEVER COVERED EVENTS LIKE THIS!

  26. Well said, Pat! Teaching has always been a work of heart for me and most excellent teachers I have had the privilege of knowing. It’s helping the kid who is down, who thinks there is no one who could possibly understand and those moments when the light bulb turns on as a student finally makes a connection to something read or written that keeps me going year after year. I have challenged many people in other professions to trade jobs with me for a year if they think teachers have it so easy! They never want to take the challenge!

    • Thanks, Sheila, for echoing my observations. As a “fellow” English teacher and woman of words, with years of experience on the front line, I know you know what I am talking about. Education has to evolve to keep up with the times, but without taking the HEART out of the profession. I commend your efforts over the years…keep inspiring young minds, one word at time!

  27. Well said, Pat! Teaching has always been a work of heart for me and most excellent teachers I have had the privilege of knowing. It’s helping the kid who is down, who thinks there is no one who could possibly understand and those moments when the light bulb turns on as a student finally makes a connection to something read or written that keeps me going year after year. I have challenged many people in other professions to trade jobs with me for a year if they think teachers have it so easy! They never want to take the challenge!

  28. The esteem in which teachers are held seems to have been a problem for very long stretches of time. Ironically, when times are bad sometimes you’d have better educated teachers. In the period right after the war here often teachers would have a university degree, they would be people of academic level.
    Having said that; the most important thing about a teacher should be that he or she really wants to teach. And that IS a damn hard job, as you say.

    • Interesting observation about the worse the times were in Holland, the better the level of teachers. Aren’t all of your educators university graduates? How many years does it take to earn a teaching degree? In many parts of the US, teaching qualification requires 5 years of a college education in a teaching program. Thanks for stopping by, Laurent. You always add such fascinating comments from the Dutch perspective.

  29. The esteem in which teachers are held seems to have been a problem for very long stretches of time. Ironically, when times are bad sometimes you’d have better educated teachers. In the period right after the war here often teachers would have a university degree, they would be people of academic level.
    Having said that; the most important thing about a teacher should be that he or she really wants to teach. And that IS a damn hard job, as you say.

    • Interesting observation about the worse the times were in Holland, the better the level of teachers. Aren’t all of your educators university graduates? How many years does it take to earn a teaching degree? In many parts of the US, teaching qualification requires 5 years of a college education in a teaching program. Thanks for stopping by, Laurent. You always add such fascinating comments from the Dutch perspective.

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