“One nice thing about being a teacher is that you get off early enough to work a night shift in a factory.” Those words came from my Aunt Ann, and that was the only positive thing anyone in my family had to say about my graduation from college.
But, they couldn’t help it. Factory work was all they knew. However, lots of highly educated people seem to have similar thoughts about teachers. You know, the short days, long breaks, summers off. Why, it’s like hardly having a job at all. Right?
So for National Education Week, which runs Nov. 18-22, I’m letting teachers blow their own whistles about how much time they have on and off the job.
High school teachers: There’s no time to plan or grade papers. … The required 30 minutes before and 60 minutes after school are packed with meetings. … An itinerant teacher uses my room during my planning time so I have to leave. I can’t access my supplies or work on projects in the room. … We’re short on subs, so I often spend my planning period covering for absent teachers. …With only 24 minutes for lunch, I can barely get my food down, much less go to the bathroom. … I come in at 6 a.m. and I’m usually here until 5:30 p.m. giving students extra help. … Everyone is required to work on at least one committee which means staying after school for the meetings.
Middle school teachers: Every so-called planning period is scheduled with meetings. I have to do all my grading and planning at home. … If anyone thinks all teachers get a duty free lunch, they need to spend a day in a self-contained special education class. … By the time I walk my students to the cafeteria, I’m lucky to get ten minutes to eat. …It’s duty, duty, duty. Hall duty, lunch duty, bus duty. The only teachers who get to go to the bathroom are the ones assigned bathroom duty.
Elementary teachers: The piles of paperwork keep me from doing any planning at school. … Kids “need” to be entertained so we’re always having to come up with a new dog-and-pony show and shop for the supplies with our own money on our own time. … Before I can leave the cafeteria for what’s left of my 22-minute lunch, I have to monitor students from different backgrounds to make sure they are not taking food prohibited by their religion.
This makes me think of a lively ethnic tune they play at Pittsburgh Pirates games. I know you’d know it if you heard it. What many don’t know is that it has words written early in the 20th century that expressed immigrants’ joy about our fair labor laws for factory workers. They go, “Lucky, lucky, lucky me, I’m a lucky son-of-a-gun, eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work and eight hours of fun! Hey!”
Hey! Yeah! Teachers should be so lucky!
Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.