“In what other profession…!” This is the favorite starting point for teacher haters lurking in the Internet’s dark world of online commenting sections below education articles. It is usually followed by several outrageous claims about the teaching profession. “In what other profession do people: have four months off, work six hours a day, have amazing benefits, retire at 40, get a raise every year, have a job for life, not get evaluated, not have to perform, and not get held accountable for anything.”  Funny, I feel like teachers are held accountable for everything these days including the national security and economic well being of the United States. Last time I checked that was Congress’s job, but they’ve been too busy holding hearings about baseball players using performance enhancing drugs.  If only there was a performance enhancing drug for teachers! The nation would be saved!

A Facebook post from a teacher the other day about not being able to use the copier at school, followed by comments from other teachers about only getting ten copies a day (note to administrators, most classes have at least 30 students in them), having to buy their own dry erase markers, transparencies, printers…. etc. got me thinking about ways in which the teaching profession is truly unique. The following is a list of “in what other profession” statements about teaching:

  1. In what other profession are barriers actually set up to prevent an employee from doing their job and the employee is responsible for buying their own office supplies and equipment? This varies from school to school.   The last school where I briefly worked was like the Shangri la of teaching supplies. They actually left the room to the office supplies unlocked! I got to laminate something for the first time in ten years of teaching! They had multiple functioning copiers which teachers were allowed to use! This is not normal. It was like the teaching Twilight Zone.  In most schools massive barricades are set up to prevent teachers from copying anything. If a teacher does manage to gain access to a copy machine, a top-secret security code will prevent them from actually making any copies. Apparently nothing a teacher could have to make a copy of is of any importance and not necessary for student success. Anything and everything an administrator makes copies of is crucial, especially if it has to do with testing. Every year heavy, colorful cardstock packets of testing schedules are placed in teachers’ mailboxes.  Inevitably, there will be some mistake and the whole fifty page packet will appear again in our mailboxes with corrections. Or my personal favorite, at meetings when they print out a thirty-page power point presentation but teachers can’t even read anything because the writing is so small in those little boxes. Meanwhile, I’ve managed to save a dusty, disease ridden class set of every article and test I’ve used over the past ten years. I’ve spent hours whiting out the inevitable adolescent depictions of male genitalia that appear despite my repeated pleas to students to never write on anything I give them.

2. In what other profession are employees treated like children at meetings and professional development?  Maybe I’m old school, but I always thought the point of a meeting was actually to sit down and discuss matters of importance. Your standard staff meeting, however, has turned into an excuse for another PD session where teachers are forced to think-pair-share and create KWL charts on over sized sticky post-it note paper that most teachers could only dream of having in their classrooms.  This is the kind of torture that inspires teachers to start writing anonymous blogs. Check out one of the most brilliantly funny teacher blogs ever written about a teacher dialing in a fake bomb threat just to end a faculty meeting http://teachbad.com/2010/12/28/teacher-fakes-bomb-threat-ends-faculty-meeting/.   For more insight into the secret lives of teachers, this viral video of professional development in Chicago was recently circulating on the Internet http://preaprez.wordpress.com/2014/03/01/this-video-of-cps-professional-development-goes-viral-pd-on-crack/.  In it the teachers are expected to mindlessly repeat after the presenter as she models the best practice of “choral reading.” This video was not shocking to any teacher. It was merely a painful reminder of the indignities of our profession.

3. Speaking of indignities, in what other profession can you only use the bathroom twice a day? Is one of the reasons that younger teachers are preferred because they have stronger bladders? When you do get to use the bathroom, it is often a smelly student bathroom with urine on the seat, feminine hygiene products on the floor, the most vile curse laden graffiti imaginable on the walls, and of course, no toilet paper.  Two things prevented me from becoming a teacher for many years: the bureaucracy and the bathrooms.

4. In what other profession is fifty percent of your evaluation, and whether you get a raise or not, based on someone else’s performance? Whether it’s your students’ test scores, your students’ reading teacher’s test scores, or the reading average test score of your entire school, it is a factor completely out of your control. I have no problem being evaluated as a teacher but please evaluate ME on MY job performance.  Was I always prepared for class with an engaging lesson? Were a reasonable amount of grades entered in a timely fashion? Did I maintain an informative teacher webpage? Did I respond to parent email promptly and politely? Did I contribute to the school community? Did my student’s portfolios show “growth” over the course of the year? There are so many better ways to fairly evaluate an educator besides test scores. If only they would ask us.

5. In what other profession will you never be asked for your professional opinion? Everybody has an opinion on how to improve education but nobody will dare listen to a teacher. Politicians and billionaires who have never spent more than a photo op in a public school get to become the education advocates (think Jeb Bush and Bill Gates), while the teachers who spend half of their lives in the trenches are treated like union thugs only interested in their own benefits.

6. In what other profession do people feel the need to make disparaging remarks about your field at the end of every article? Before the Miami Herald required commenters to login using their Facebook accounts, there were some real nutcases out there who would immediately use any education article (whether it had to do with teachers or not) to bash greedy, lazy, stupid teachers with their pensions and summers off for the downfall of America.

7. Let me end on a positive “in what other profession” statement. In what other profession are you greeted with former students who will walk by your classroom to give you a hug and tell you they love you everyday during lunch? And, yes, we do get summers off (if we married well and don’t have to work at TGIF to pay the rent in June, July and August).

Feel free to live your own “in what other profession” statements (good or bad) in the commenting section.