I recently read an article online titled, “Teaching isn’t a calling. It’s a job.” https://medium.com/@jonparker_48980/teaching-isnt-a-calling-it-s-a-job-792d49b27045#.8qlhxdd04
It was a refreshing article that gave teachers the permission to have a life outside of school hours, permission to prioritize something other than their students, permission to not spend every spare dime on buying classroom materials or clothing and food for poor students, permission to expect to get paid. Whenever I hear the word “calling,” I think of nuns. This got me thinking about how nuns and teachers are similar, and how they aren’t. Interestingly enough, one of the first major comparisons between teachers and nuns is their salary.
1.Salary. The salary range for nuns in Florida ranges from the mid-30s to a max of $70,000 with most nuns earning an average of $45,000 a year. Sound familiar? Only there’s one big difference: nuns will never have children! Which brings me to similarity number 2.
2.Reproduction. Although nuns are clearly not allowed to reproduce once they have entered the profession, it is not encouraged or expected for teachers to reproduce either. A starting salary to a young unmarried graduate of $40,000 a year doesn’t seem terrible. A single person can manage to sustain life on that figure. However, they will quickly find out from their coworkers that fifteen years into the profession they will only be making $5,000 more and their monthly expenses will skyrocket if they make the mistake of reproducing. Not only is it not advisable for teachers to reproduce for financial reasons, but their careers and mental health are also likely to suffer as a result reproduction. It was one thing to put up with the chaos of the classroom when you could come home after work and take a nice long nap or maybe stay late at school to lesson plan or grade papers, but once you have kids of your own, after a day in the classroom you will have little patience for your own children and have no time for the extra demands of the job when you are too busy picking kids up from school, cooking dinner, cleaning up from dinner, and god forbid, helping your own kids with their homework or reading your own kids a book! Not to mention, you will probably not be able to afford a large enough abode for yourself and your brood unless you marry well or have a trust fund. Which brings me to similarity, number 3, both teachers and nuns are expected to live in small places.
3. Lodging. Apparently, teachers’ lodging expectations should fall in line with those of nuns and convicted felons. An article recently ran in Education Week about a fancy Colorado ski resort town that plans to “recruit and retain” teachers by building tiny 400 sq. ft. houses http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/03/01/colo-district-mulls-building-tiny-houses-for.html. The 1% percenters can spend all day skiing the slopes and retire to their luxurious mountain lodges while after spending all day educating the next generation teachers get to retreat to homes that are smaller than the closets of the town’s wealthier denizens. I’m pretty sure the same rich people also have dog houses that are nicer than the homes the town of Eagle,Colorado wants to build for teachers. If you are ever lucky enough to go on a “business” trip as a teacher, expect to share a Motel 8 room with another teacher or, even worse, your principal. If the conference takes place at university, you will get to share a dorm room with a total stranger and sleep on the world’s hardest and smallest twin size mattress. Compare that to my husband’s business trips where he gets treated to a king size suite in a five star hotel. Is there any other profession in which an adult would be expected to share a hotel room, let alone a dorm room with a total stranger? As a teacher, you can expect to forever be treated like a student. You will also spend most of your days surrounded by no one but students. Which brings me to teacher/ nun similarity number 4, cloistering.
4. Cloistering. Nuns are expected to spend their days cloistered with other nuns isolated from society. Teachers will also find themselves cloistered in their classrooms with their students for 7 hours a day. A few times a month you might come out of your abbey to attend a faculty meeting in which case you will be surrounded by other teachers and decide you prefer the company of your students instead. Because teachers spend all of their time around “children” they are expected, like nuns, to be free of sin and vice, never drink, never curse and dress modestly. Which brings me to the last similarity between teachers and nuns, neither one are expected to have a life.
5.Sainthood. Of course the nun who has taken a vow to marry God will have to dress modestly and abstain from having a good time, but why should teachers be held to the same standard? How many stories do we have to hear about teachers being fired because they cursed on Facebook, posted pictures of drinking beer while they were at Oktoberfest in Germany, or had a friend post a bikini shot of them while on vacation? These are normal adult activities and teachers should be allowed to have a life outside of their classrooms that may or may not include a little sin. When a 26 year old elementary teacher got busted for drunk driving in South Florida, it was on every news channel like she had just committed mass murder. How many other 26 year olds in South Florida have been guilty of a DUI? But this poor woman has to receive a public stoning in the media just because she’s an elementary school teacher? God forbid you happen to be a curvy female teacher because you will also make national news headlines for wearing a dress if is anything more form fitting than a mu-mu https://blackamericaweb.com/2016/09/15/sexy-teacher-not-quite-a-teacher-reprimanded-about-attire-and-social-media/. I wear dresses like this to work all of the time. Good thing my back side is smaller and I don’t post selfies on Instagram or I might have CNN come knocking on my classroom door! The public may think of students as little virginal angels but classroom teachers know that the little darlings are far from innocent. Which brings me to the differences between teachers and nuns.
Difference #1. Nuns will never be subjected to the constant cursing and vile secondary conversations that take place in schools. The other afternoon while crossing the courtyard to get to my car, I was assaulted by a cacophony of curse words. I heard more four letter words than pronouns and verbs. Even at my worst moments, I don’t think I can manage to string together more than two curse words at a time. These kids can string together 5-8 curse words with a simple greeting, “Yo, b***h a$$ mother-f***er G-Damn b**tard, what up?” The constant cursing is one of the unpleasantries of the job, but even worse are the side conversations about teenage sexual conquests. Today I overheard one fourteen year old lothario bragging about his weekend escapade to a group of other boys. A nerdier boy who had yet to undergo puberty, questioned him “So what does the inside of a vagina feel like?” I quickly cut off the conversation before I had to hear the boy’s answer. I guarantee no nun has ever had their ears tainted by adolescent X-rated locker room talk while at work.
Difference #2. Nuns spend their days in peace and quiet with prayer and meditation. I’m sure we’ve all said a few prayers to try and get through the day, but peace? quiet? meditation? Umm…teachers…not so much.
Difference #3. If a nun councils a member of the church, and said member goes out and commits a sin anyway, that nun shall not be blamed. Teachers can perform their jobs to the full extent, but when students who don’t listen or do any work fail the test at the end of the year, the teacher receives all of the blame.
Difference #4. Nuns are respected and get to slam rulers on the desks. Teachers are called the B word, have crushed up balls of paper thrown at their heads, and must refrain from any moments of anger.
Difference #5. Nuns received a calling, most teachers did not. I for one never received a “calling” to become a teacher. I received a bachelor’s degree and after a few temp jobs thought to myself, what am I going to do with this useless Anthropology degree from a prestigious university? Let me try this teaching thing out for a while. I like to travel and I’ll have summers off. Little did I realize I would have to spend my summer working a second job to keep a roof over my head in July and August. My friend who was a teacher and liked to travel during the summer could only do so by moving out of an apartment every June, putting her belongings in storage, and spending the summer couch surfing around the globe. Fun in your twenties, not so fun after forty.
Of course, many teachers love their jobs, their students, and they can’t see themselves doing anything else for 30 years, but that doesn’t mean they were sent a message from God to spend their lives as a self-sacrificing saints. There is no sainthood for being a teacher and all teachers don’t necessarily go to heaven. So enjoy life and expect to get paid like a professional going to work everyday, even if you feel like you get to spend your day at the playground.