doormatI haven’t used my blog for ranting purposes lately, but after spending five hours locked in the auditorium with 500 freshmen while the rest of the school took the PSAT, I’m experiencing high levels of agitation. Surprisingly, the students were not the main cause of my agitation. It was the words of a fellow teacher that set off the Kafkateach rant-o-meter. Our school’s game plan for the PSAT was to corral the freshmen in the auditorium and have them take advantage of our school’s new Wi-Fi capabilities and their tablet computers to complete assignments for their teachers online. Not much of a game and not much of a plan, but it kept them busy in their seats for a little while at least. Of course some students came to school without a device, or it wasn’t charged, or it wouldn’t connect to the Internet, so an older teacher ran back to her room to get pencils and paper for everyone. Literally, she had enough paper and pencils for all 500 students! She boasted that she spent thousands of her own money every year on pencils and papers. When I asked why she would do such a thing, her answer was, “Because I’m a dedicated teacher.” Then she added, “some of my students are homeless you know?”

Umm…yes I did know that some of her students were homeless because we work at the same school and teach the same students. I also knew that some of our students drive brand new Mercedes Benzes to school and certainly don’t need their teacher to supply them with paper and pencils. I once had a student who never wore the school uniform because he had to show off his new Abercrombie shirts. He had a new $500 pair of sneakers everyday and when he turned 16 he crashed the new BMW his parents bought for him after two weeks. This same student asked me for a pen and paper everyday in my class and was indignant when I failed to provide him with his school supplies. Now I know why he never brought any pen and paper. Why should he when teachers were so willing to give him pen and paper no questions asked? Teachers, you are not doing your students, your fellow teachers, or yourselves any favors by spending thousands of your own money on pencils and paper every year. It doesn’t make you “dedicated” to supply a kid who vacations in the south of France with basic school supplies he could easily afford. It makes you a sucker. So please don’t get on your “dedicated” teacher high horse when you’re on step 30 and making $70,000 a year to a teacher making $40,000 after ten years and who is burdened with paying for two kids in daycare. If you would use the available technology in the first place your students wouldn’t even need pencil and paper.

The dedicated teacher martyrdom competition really irks me. When I attended my very brief tablet training, they had some teachers from the Superintendent’s IPrep Academies come tell us about their experience. One teacher boasted that her staff would come to school on Saturdays to make the program work because they were “dedicated.” I consider myself a “dedicated” teacher, but I have small children I need to take care of and there is no way I would regularly go to work on Saturdays-even if they paid me! Other “dedicated” martyr teacher types like to brag that they stay at school until 6 pm every night. The amount of time teachers spend at the school building is not necessarily a sign of dedication or being a great teacher. These days it is more often a sign of being an inefficient luddite. Are you wasting your planning time in the teachers’ lounge making copies for your students? Post it online and save yourself time, save your school money, and save the world some trees. The school computers are so slow that I can actually get more done from my house than my classroom these days.

Stating that your willingness to work for free and using your own money for supplies somehow makes you “dedicated,” implies that your fellow teachers without the luxury of extra time or money are somehow not “dedicated.”  Teachers, when you willingly work for free and spend wads of your own money on basic school supplies, you are not winning any “Most Dedicated Teacher” awards. You just end up perpetuating the treatment of teachers as doormats.

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