Memo to my children: Whatever you decide to do in life, please do not become school teachers. Instead, choose a career where the working conditions are slightly less hostile and authoritarian, such as pro-American journalist in Libya.
Let’s be clear: teaching at any level is a noble profession. Some might say it’s not a profession at all but rather a calling. All I’m saying is, if you get the call, don’t pick up.
I haven’t always felt this way. There was a time when I would have been pleased for my children to become teachers — even though teaching is a relatively low-paying profession and an often thankless job. But I used to think those drawbacks were more than offset by the intellectual stimulation and respect that teachers enjoy, not to mention those cut-rate cafeteria lunches.
Now I look at the school calendar and see one long string of standardized tests, most with acronyms that would make the Pentagon blush: CogAT, PSAT, CRCT, GHSGT, ITBS, BOGUS. OK, I made that last one up.
It appears that policy-makers have reduced teachers to little more than information-dispensing drones. So much for intellectual stimulation.
How about respect? These days, listening to talk radio — yes, I’m a masochist — I get the idea that public school teachers have somehow become public enemy No. 1. Seems they’re a bunch of overpaid whiners who do a poor job teaching our kids. Oh yeah, and they get summers OFF!
Here’s another memo, this one to any parents who buy that garbage: If your children are doing poorly in school, it’s YOUR fault, not the teachers’. Your kids are spoiled and undisciplined, they have no work ethic and no respect for authority, and they’re allowed to get away with murder at home.
Yet somehow, in eight hours a day, teachers are supposed to transform those self-centered little mush-brains into responsible, thinking citizens. And if they somehow fail to achieve such miracles, they should be fired, or have their pay cut, or at least be ripped by talk show hosts who’ve never stood in front of a classroom in their lives.
Here’s an invitation to all the teacher-bashers: How about you spend all day, every day for the next 10 months with 25 or 30 members of the rising generation. Then see if you don’t need a couple months off just to recuperate.
And so I say to my own kids, even if you feel genetically predisposed to be school teachers, even if you have natural teaching ability, please find another line of work. Should you choose to ignore my advice, at least remember that what you do, you will do alone. Do not expect support from parents, community leaders, or even your own administrators, most of whom will quickly throw you under the bus rather than face the slightest criticism.
Just dispense information, work miracles daily, and you’ll be fine.
Rob Jenkins is a free-lance writer who lives in Lawrenceville. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.