Priorities

The bad news for education in Virginia just keeps coming. The state legislature voted yesterday to compel all teachers to contribute 5% of their annual salary to the state retirement program. Until now, this was a contribution the state made as a benefit in lieu of lower salaries. Well, the lower salaries are still here, but now the benefit is gone. It makes me wonder where we are heading as a nation and what we really value.

I  never minded that we didn’t make what other professionals with comparable education made. I didn’t become a teacher for the money- obviously. I didn’t hesitate to spend my own money to stock my classroom supplies or add books to my class library. Most of the time, it didn’t bother me that I worked evenings and on the weekends. I always found planning challenging and actually enjoyed working on curricula and reading professionally. I don’t mean to sound pious or self-righteous, but it just didn’t seem to be that big a deal.

But now, it all feels different. I think before this year, I thought everyone cared as much as I did, and the lack of funding was just an unfortunate reality. But now if feels more personal and much less about the best we can do. I worry about our kids. What will happen to them if we are becoming a nation that doesn’t value education? I worry that public education has become a throw-away item for most legislators. I worry that teachers have become easy targets because our knee-jerk reaction is to do the best we can with what we have, and that we have always been willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. I worry because I find myself thinking that it’s time to draw the line and just say no, to refuse to deliver the same level of professionalism just because they assume I will, regardless of funding  or benefits or  no more duty-free lunches. I am worried because I am afraid that I have just about reached the end of what I am willing to do. And I worry about what that says about my professionalism.

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4 responses to “Priorities

  1. These are BIG concerns I think we all have as educators. They certainly have to be addressed but not all at once and not today. When I feel like this I take a deep breath and because I am a praying kind of woman I do that. Then I think what and where does the joy in my life/job come from. That is what I concentrate on. Sometimes knowing you’re not alone helps, I hope so.

    • While I agree that we can’t fix everything at once and that, as professionals, we need to keep our eyes on the prize- our kids, I also think that we are navigating dangerous waters. I find lately that taking on more and more expectations, more and more responsibility without receiving the respect that the job deserves is sapping my energy. I, too, am a praying woman. I am finding that it takes more prayer these days and that saddens me.

  2. Thank you for writing this. You are saying what a lot of teachers are saying. Suddenly I feel we are the enemy and the finger keeps pointing to us as the reason why education is where it is. The reality is most teachers are passionate about what they do and are willing to make sacrifices for their students to ensure that they have the best education we can give them despite the conditions. You ask an important question. do we keep turning the other cheek or is it time to say enough is enough?

    • The answer to your last question is what scares me the most. I am really afraid I am closer to saying “enough,” now, more than any time in my teaching career. I feel like teachers are the geese that lay the golden eggs and if someone doesn’t wake up soon, we will discover that we’ve killed the geese! Then what?

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