Last night I drove my son and his girlfriend (sigh) to a trampoline place for a date (sigh).
His girlfriend is actually very delightful and talkative and maybe just a little bit like Jacob so I can totally see the connection there. Did I hear her say she had ADHD? Very interesting. Anyway, not what I was going to write about. Today.
So she asked me about my lanyard hanging on the rearview mirror (the working man's fuzzy dice) and I told her I was a teacher. My son told her, well, she's kind of a teacher. She doesn't work every day and she doesn't work in a "school". If I didn't know any better I might think he was a little embarrassed about that.
I am a TEACHER.
I spent five years plus two summers in undergraduate school (because that was the length of the education program factoring in observation and student teaching semesters) earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with emphasis in Early Childhood/Kindergarten.
I spent two years plus two summers in graduate school earning a Masters Degree in Special Education with emphasis in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders.
I was certified after taking two six hour exams in the states of West Virginia and Virginia to teach grades Pre-K-8 and Special Education K-12.
I became a TEACHER.
I taught a special ed self-contained class, a pull-out class, a collaborative class, third grade, sixth grade, Gifted 4th-6th grade, fourth grade, first grade, second grade, had some children, and have, for the past six years, taught preschool.
I officially work five hours a day, three days a week and earn $427 and some change every two weeks for that. I bring home $207.07 from that amount. That means I deposit $414.14 each month. That is not a typo. I pay more in taxes than I keep. No. We do not get a refund. In fact, we pay at least $600 each year to the IRS. At least.
I know you are thinking now that I must be an idiot. I think this as well many, many days.
I LOVE my job.
After years of feeling like a sub-par mother and not quite fitting into the stay-at-home play date crowd, I am finally back in my happy place.
I know Jesus wants me to be modest and say I just do my best, but while I will say that about my mothering and wifing, I am going to stand whole-hog and say I am A FANTASTIC teacher! They make great teachers at WVU. Just saying. And at some point along that way for all those years I realized I was good at it and poured myself into it (helped I was single most of that time). I have folded in my purse a note my first teaching year principal left for me that said, and I can quote because I look at it all the time, "When I watch you teach, I cannot believe it is your first year. I would love for others to come see what you can do." THAT. Was my ever-changing moment. I didn't just imagine I was good at it. Someone else saw it too. I have never, EVER wanted to do anything else (aside from the mothering but that's another story).
I am a TEACHER.
I do not work only my allotted fifteen hours and go home. I spend at least an hour each Monday afternoon preparing for the three day week ahead. I stay all day Thursday as we have a one hour staff meeting that is not part of our pay. I spend the rest of that day breaking down my room and rolling it upstairs to storage as I do work in a church and the room has to be clean and looking like a church on Sunday. Usually I spend most of Thursday evening at home finishing my lesson plans for the next week. I do take all day Friday off but that's the day I catch up on all the things our household needs like cleaned and groceried. I cannot imagine how I would get anything done with all the football and dates on the weekends without that Friday. I am in awe of the real teachers who don't have that luxury. I spend one week earning at least 24 hours of training time at a conference each summer. This means I have to arrange for child care that I pay for but I do not get paid for this time. I spend a week in meetings before school starts preparing for the year and another week preparing my classroom for the year. I do not get paid for either of these with the exception of one staff meeting and a meet-the-teacher morning.
I love my students with the fire of a thousand suns. It doesn't matter if they are now in the third grade, I will stop what I am doing and accept a hug and make a huge deal about their recent lost tooth or new shoes. I want them to learn to the best of their ability while they are with me. At three/four/five that may mean they only learn how to share and their colors. Maybe they are reading small books when they leave me. Whatever it is I have taught to their individual needs and by doing that my lesson plans are longer, more detailed, and take much more of my time to prepare, but why teach them all the same way if they don't all learn the same way? I purchase so much out of my measly paycheck for them and I WANT to do that. because I love them and want them to succeed. It's M week next week. Mangoes were on sale. They will like that. Or maybe they won't. At least they have that experience. I took Elizabeth to Dollar Tree yesterday for ONE thing (One dollar) and left spending 23 dollars and some because I know one girl would love the Star Wars stickers and those square blocks will really help them get the one-to-one correspondence as we add and subtract, and the jumping frogs are fun and will work their fine motor skills. I can't wait for them to find them on the table Tuesday morning. When I did the math, I put a quarter of the paycheck I just received back into my classroom.
That fake classroom in the fake school.
I am a TEACHER. I LOVE my job.
I have a kid who will hopefully go to college soon. And two more after him. I can't keep paying the government so I can feel good about myself.
They offered me a part-time job at Gymboree once. They know me there. I love me some Gymboree. One of my student's mom works there now. She makes more money than I do. She works less hours and doesn't do any of it at home. (sigh). My teenage neighbor makes more than me at the McDonalds down the street.
It's very sad when good teachers have to work somewhere else just to make the money they really deserve.
At this point, I will not be teaching next year. I love it, but I feel like I am volunteering a lot of my time. I want to make a difference in all of my student's lives, but at what cost? At some point I need to think of our family and what I can do for them. What if I put all of that energy into teaching my own child? Maybe I will homeschool Elizabeth next year. At least I would still be teaching.
I will miss it though. That's the place I am validated. I know I am good at that.
I am a TEACHER. But I don't get paid enough to teach. Just like so many others who are walking away from it as well.
And then we wonder why our schools are in such bad shape.