Susan Whinery: Teachers deserve ‘respect and appreciation’
September 20, 2012
Too often, when I read a controversial article or letter that mentions what teachers do–or don't do, I fume, and then quietly let my feelings fade away. After all, I'm not teaching any more.
I was a teacher, though, and I spent 25 years in the Moffat County School District.
Wednesday's editorial struck a chord I couldn't ignore. Why don't teachers belong to any of the three newest educational support groups and why don't they "pony up" a few more dollars now and then?
Although I was lucky enough to spend most of my Moffat County teaching career during the years when money was less scarce, I regularly spent a considerable amount of money from my own pocket. The most basic purchases included spiral notebooks and pens/pencils for those kids who inevitably came to school with nothing.
Fresh fabric and materials for attention-catching bulletin boards required a trip to a store. Special projects demanded extra supplies, and in some cases, required that I make a product and bring it to school. Enough homemade play dough to create numerous brain models, craft supplies to produce those all-important hands-on projects that increase learning, or paperback books to form a readily available classroom library all came from my personal funds.
As for lack of contributions, who do you think the kids hit up first for their fund-raisers? I long ago lost count of the FFA pecans, fruit and sausage I purchased, the band pizzas and cookie dough that found made their way to my freezer, the wrapping paper, greeting cards, magazines, candles, Bulldogs cards, or Woods II mass marketing projects that found their ways to my home.
As a teacher, none of the things I did was unusual. In fact, I knew very few teachers who didn't spend a significant amount of their own money for supplies not covered by the district or who refused to support student fundraisers.
Finally, why don't teachers serve on these three extremely valuable committees? Could it be because they're finishing master's degrees or completing continuing education classes to make them more highly qualified, or because their classroom responsibilities far exceed the bells calling students to order in the morning and dismissing them each afternoon?
Do they plan lessons, grade papers, attend seemingly endless meetings, make phone calls to and meet with parents, and agonize over meeting the needs of struggling students?
Teachers in Moffat County today are educating our children with even less financial support than in the past. Highly trained paraprofessionals who once could focus on struggling students have been eliminated from classrooms, class sizes are larger, and ever fewer dollars are allocated for extras.
The workload has increased, and actual take home pay has decreased as insurance costs have risen and the school district has passed that burden on to teachers.
All the teachers I know appreciate beyond words the positive contributions being made by our concerned citizens. But folks, the next time you want to complain about the things teachers aren't doing, please take the time to ask yourself who spent hours designing stimulating projects and who purchased the materials to make them a reality?
Whose time was given to write that encouraging note home, to make that phone call, or to brainstorm with you about how to make your child more successful in school? Classroom teachers are doing these things everyday and they deserve your respect and appreciation.