Did you know what you were getting into?

Last week, I was asked a question: “Didn’t you know what you were getting into, when you decided to become a teacher?”.

This week, I was told this statement: “You knew what you were getting into when you chose to be a teacher”.

The question and statement were comments on two separate links that I posted on Facebook.  The posted links related to current education events, and the comments quickly shifted to teacher pay. I believe that the question was genuine, and I will address it later in this post. The statement was a genuine attack on the teaching profession.

The person that made this statement is someone that I have known for 15 years.  He is the father of a friend. He was using public records (about administrative pay) and taking it out of the context of the discussion. He would not consider the data that I provided, and the context that I provided as a classroom teacher. Eventually, I was told that my generation expects to start making tons of money at the beginning of our careers, because we have never had jobs involving physical labor to provide for our families. I don’t believe that the appreciation of wages comes from physical labor. I believe that it comes from being taught gratitude and contentment.

The discussion got heated when an educator friend of mine, who commented on the thread, was called an “educator”. The man then spewed nonsense about low district scores being the fault of teachers. He told me that I had no interest in conversing with someone of a differing opinion. I ended the conversation, not because I can’t handle a differing opinion, but because I was not going to let the false narrative of public school failure be spewed on my personal page, without factual data to prove his argument. I won’t allow myself or my colleagues to be attacked. My Facebook, my rules…sorry if you don’t like it. Just for the record, dissenting opinions are always welcome on this blog…just keep it classy.

After encountering this person’s ignorance, it made me ask myself the question: “Did I know what I was getting into, when I decided to become a teacher?”.

So here are some of my answers…

Yes, I knew that my salary would be low when compared to my peers.
No, I didn’t understand that the family insurance plan would be a joke.

Yes, I knew that I would have to prove my worth.
No, I didn’t understand that so many media outlets wanted to tell the public that I was worthless.

Yes, I understood that the perception of my generation was lazy and unthankful.
No, I didn’t realize that this perception would be cast upon us by many people that raised us.

Yes, I knew that I would I have to pay for classroom essentials out of my own pocket.
No, I didn’t understand that my state would decrease the funding for my students more than any other state.

Yes, I knew that I would have parents that would agree & disagree with my teaching philosophy.
No, I didn’t fully understand how often I would be the primary parental figure in a student’s life.

Yes, I knew that there was going to be a dentist elected State Superintendent.
No, I didn’t realize that she would be a constant adversary to the teaching profession.
No, I didn’t realize that she would claim that my teachers had lost a generation of students.

Yes, I realized that some of our state’s elected officials were immature.
No, I didn’t realize that our governor would have a pissing contest with our legislators.

Yes, I realized that people who had never been a career educator would think that my job is easy.
No, I didn’t realize that I’d be called greedy when wanting higher wages.

Yes, I knew that some elected officials do not fight for public education, but against.
No, I didn’t realize that one of our biggest adversaries would be our United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

Yes, I realized that I would be evaluated with great scrutiny.
No, I didn’t realize that I would be evaluated in a dangerous way, which views students and teachers as numbers.

Yes, I knew that I would meet amazing people.
No, I didn’t realize that I would meeting my amazing wife.

Yes, I knew that some people wanted to radically “reform” the teaching profession.
No, I didn’t know that Teach for America would steal jobs from career educators, and cycle TFA teachers like a Temp. agency.

Yes, I understood that I would make a generational difference.
No, I didn’t understand that rhetoric would be used to make me appear to be lazy and selfish.

Yes, I understood that it would be hard.
Yes, I knew I that I would love it.
Yes, I would do it again. But, just because I am in love with my career, doesn’t mean that I have to relinquish my advocacy card.

After looking at this list, maybe I was the one that was really ignorant. Or maybe, I was a 20 year old college student wanting to make a positive impact on the students, and on the profession.

So, I ask my fellow educators: Did you know what you were getting into?






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8 Responses to Did you know what you were getting into?

  1. Well said. I’d add that at this point it’s sometimes secondary what WE knew, getting in – what about whoever is going to ‘get into’ this profession next? Knowing what we / they know, what message are we sending to anyone considering public education as a career? “Not unless you have no responsibilities to any sort of family”? “Not unless you aren’t qualified to do anything else”? “Not unless you need to be abused by powerful figures to fill some sort of emotional void”?
    Thanks for posting this. If we end up having drinks together we could quibble over a few specifics, but the substance of this is amazing, and thoughtful, poignant reading.

  2. kissalou says:

    I knew what I was getting into at the time, in 2001. I didn’t know, THEN that students would be reduced to data points. I didn’t know then that TLE or VAM or CCSS were going to happen. I didnt know that a hugely anti-teacher legislature would be elected.
    I also didn’t know that TEACHERS would be blamed for the stock market’s meltdown, while the bankers who made bad loans would collect millions in bonuses, or that the government would turn and give those same bankers BILLIONS in bailouts and deprive schools of what they need.
    I also didn’t know that a President who made history would choose a basketball buddy who has ZERO teaching experience to be his secretary of education, or that Congress would let said secretary run roughshod over the Constitution, and implement whatever whackaloon policy that pips into his head.

  3. Karen Evans says:

    I got into education to show and teach students that learning can be fun and it is something that is lifelong. I have been in it for 22 years now and have never felt so unappreciated and beat down as I have right now. We are so concerned about what other countries do to educate their children to put them at the top that we fail to do the same things here. We could begin by respecting teachers. That is something that is not happening in the United States. We are the scape goats for what problems are outside our control. They implement something that is invalid and if they had asked, we would have told them, but yet when it does fail, teachers are the ones who get blamed. A friend of mine spent 3 weeks in Japan to study their educational system. One, their teachers are treated like doctors and engineers among the leaders of the country and the parents. Two, the parents spend time with their children to make their learning experience the best it can be and they help their children strive towards excellence. These two things are sorely lacking in the U.S. So, what did I know getting into teaching?

    1. I knew I would make a difference in the lives of my students. There are way too many examples of student success stories. I have so many students who leave high school and become very productive, successful young adults. I did not fail them and they did not fail me in their endeavors.
    2. I knew I would be able to teach science to my students in a way that the students would have fun, learn a LOT of information, and develop a love for science. I did this for many years and my students were very successful. However, once EOI testing came about, what is being taught in the classroom changed drastically. All of the fun learning projects had to be pushed aside to accommodate repetitive teaching of material that will appear on the tests. Teach to the test is being beaten into the heads of teachers because so many other things are linked to those scores. It’s no longer about the material, it is about the tests.
    3. I knew I would never make a lot of money but that was okay as long as I could live on the salary. However, with inflation, it is no longer as viable as it use to be. I know teachers who have kids and they are on free and reduced lunches because of their income. I had a discussion with a couple of legislators and commented on their salaries compared to a teachers. Of course they said their salary was a certain amount (which was $300 less mine). I made the comment that they are only part-time (4 months), which is pretty sad that they make almost as much as I do and they work 4 months. One of the legislators quickly replied that many think teachers are only part-time as well. If a person works for 50 weeks of the year at 40 hours a week, they accumulate 2000 hours for that year. I work well over that before school is ever out (I have tracked it on several occasions). With that kind of attitude towards teachers, we will never make head way in being paid what we are worth.

    These are the things that are important to me. It’s all about my students and the subject I teach. What I did not know was that I would be a mother to some kids, a meal provider for others, a shoulder to cry on and ears to listen to things I would never have guessed was going on. These are not measurable things. These are things that will change the lives of kids. As the saying goes for a teacher, “What do I make? I make a difference in the lives of a child!” I wish others would see what we do every day.

  4. Michelle says:

    I went into teaching relatively late in life (in my late 30s) after serving communities as a newspaper reporter and a work-at-home-mom-focused web design company owner. I knew that teaching would be one of the hardest job I’d ever done — and that’s counting raising my own children and nurturing an 18-year marriage.

    What I didn’t know is that people who have never set foot inside a classroom would claim to know more than I do about teaching. This reminds me of those people without kids who tell people that their children will never…. (I can almost guarantee you, they will!)

    What I didn’t know is that listening to the rhetoric of our state and national education leaders would make about as much sense as getting marriage advice from someone who has been divorced several times. You’ll learn a lot about what NOT to do — nothing about what you SHOULD do.

    What I didn’t know is that with three years of experience, I have logged more classroom time than many of our national education leaders combined. When I hear uneducated opinions, twisted around to look like facts, I feel like I’m listening to a bunch of armchair quarterbacks yelling at the television from their Barcaloungers.

    What I didn’t know is that when I see our pseudo-intellectual Vulcan-rejects masquerading as the saviors of our children and jousting against the windmills of greedy teachers and thuggish unions, I feel like I’ve stepped into an alternate universe. Where is Harrison Bergeron when we need him?

    That said, i also didn’t know what fantastic veteran teachers in our public schools would take me under their wings and teach me the ropes, encourage me in my journey to nurture our state’s young people. I have been very blessed to work with those teachers who have dedicated their lives to serving in the public school trenches, and our communities would do well to appreciate the veteran teachers in their schools.

  5. Well Struck! There are lots of things that we don’t know coming in – but that we accept and work through and try to be the best that we can be. It can be difficult – but so rewarding!

  6. Amanda White says:

    I know the risk of being a techer even still in high school. I just want to help kids that cant learn that well like me.

  7. Jason says:

    I have never understood the “public schools are failing” logic. The student who scored a 30 on the ACT, scored advanced on every EOI, who just accepted a college scholarship worth tens of thousands of dollars attended the same school (and many times, the same classrooms with the same teachers) as the student who became a HS dropout. So what is the measuring stick for public schools: do they want everyone to have the same outcome, or do they want everyone to have the same opportunity? I have found the majority of the people who are firmly against socialism (where everyone reaps the rewards of the hard working few) are the very same people who want every student to have the same outcome in public schools. Why do critics of public education credit characteristics like hard work, persistence, determination, motivation, drive, etc in explaining why some people are more successful in business than others, but discredit those same characteristics in outcomes of students in our schools? I just don’t understand the logic.

  8. Brandi says:

    The “you knew what you were getting into when you chose to be a teacher” argument has always been strange to me. Yes, it was drilled in to us during teacher prep that it would be “is against the world”, and we wouldn’t be compensated adequately. But for an idealistic and naive youngster like me, who chose the profession at the age of 19, what does that really mean? Up until that point, I MAYBE made $2k/year at after school jobs. $25k seemed like SO MUCH MONEY to my teenaged self. And I was so idealistic– I was going to CHANGE THE WORLD, by golly! It’s so patronizing to assume that we got what we deserved for choosing this profession when we supposedly “knew” what we were getting into. But–all that said– I wouldn’t change my decision for the world. My work is fulfilling and rewarding. I never wake up at the beginning of the week with a “case of the Mondays”, and I never say “TGIF”! Because I love every minute of my job, even the minutes that I work beyond my contract hours. I am an expert and a professional. I am good at this job in ways that folks with little to no education in the field can be. I believe that what I’m doing is worthy and good, and I’ll continue to advocate until teachers are viewed as the professionals that they truly are.

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