When the Going Gets Tough, Teachers Keep Going

This isn’t just about teacher salaries. We don’t want to whine–whining isn’t part of what teachers do. It’s about honoring and respecting the hard work we do every day, for every child.

I wish members of the North Carolina General Assembly had read my Facebook feed the morning of August 25.  It was full of images of happy North Carolina students returning to school. The pictures ranged from kindergartners on their first day of school to seniors embarking on their last year of school.  Parents and older students posted many words about their excitement, joy, and anticipation of a new year.

When I checked Facebook that evening, the posts showed pictures of caring, smiling teachers greeting students as they returned. Teachers, assistants, staff members, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers made sure each child felt welcomed, comfortable, and secure.

In spite of the difficult challenges of our profession, this is what North Carolina teachers do.  We have always taken care of our kids. But recently, actions at the state level have made our job even more demanding. Many educators feel our profession has been questioned, our worth has been devalued, and our importance has been slighted.

This isn’t just about teacher salaries. We don’t want to whine—whining isn’t part of what we do.  It’s about honoring and respecting the hard work we do every day, for every child.

And yes, sometimes that honor needs to have a dollar value on it, because that’s how we acknowledge “professionals” in this country.   We also need to honor teachers by recognizing that class size, retaining veteran teachers, and mentoring new teachers matters.

In spite of growing student enrollment and increasing class sizes, our teachers plan, teach, and help students grow every day.

In spite of increasing turnover rates of teachers in NC schools, we continue to collaborate and help first year teachers, as well as those new to the district. Bringing new people on board every year is hard work because a lot of “school stuff” is just understood by those who have been there before.

In spite of losing longevity pay and only getting a .3% raise, those who have been there before, the veteran teachers, continue to work and teach.  Please check the salary schedule.  The “large” raise only applies to those at the beginning of their careers.

In spite of having more kids to serve on smaller school budgets, we continue to purchase supplies for our own rooms and students.  How can we ask our building administrators to give us money that isn’t always there?

In spite of the fact that our state standards are currently under review, we are still teaching to the highest standards of rigor and relevance for 21st-century learning.  Many of us have adapted our curriculum to the Common Core State Standards during the last three years, and we understand why we need these shifts in order to prepare our students for a rapidly changing world.

As I think about it, teachers constantly keep moving forward in spite of obstacles. That’s the nature of our job.

In spite of the fact that we are 10-month employees, we still work, plan, and attend conferences in the summer.  When school is dismissed due to snow, I know teachers who stay and work or drive to school in spite of the weather forecast. I know teachers who drag themselves into work when they are sick, or miss their own children’s activities because their students need them. In spite of the fact that we work more than 40 hours a week, we stay up late to grade papers and get up early before our first class. Teaching goes on even when other work or life demands increase.

One January, I was particularly struck by this in spite of mantra that characterizes our profession.  One of my younger colleagues in the English department died suddenly and unexpectedly.  The principal called to tell us on Sunday night.  Monday morning, we met at 6 AM to talk about how we were going to handle the situation.  Although we were all in shock and grieving, we knew we had to be ready to meet students who were returning to school and would hear the bad news.

  I remember thinking: We don’t even stop for death in this job.

In spite of the circumstances, we just keep our focus on the needs of our students.

I hope the students in North Carolina will continue to find success.  I hope the Facebook posts this year will continue to be positive and appreciative.  Somehow, in spite of the recent actions at the state level, I know our teachers will soldier on.  It’s just what we do.

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