Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Are You In It For The Summers? (Linchpin Thoughts part 2)

Two weeks left of school; ...well technically three, (but that last one is so short I don't count it.) And like all teachers and students, I'm anxious to pack up and head home for a nice summer of relaxing job hunting. Regardless of how we are spending our summer break, it has always been a much needed respite for both children and grownups alike.

Just because I enjoy my summer off, however, doesn't mean it is the reason I teach.

In my first post reflecting on the Linchpin I mentioned that all teachers need to be artists. Seth Godin writes that "Art cannot be merely commerce. It must also be a gift."

That bears repeating--  "Art cannot be merely commerce. It must also be a gift." To be a good teacher, a teacher who is striving to create art, to embrace and learn the art of teaching, you cannot be in it for the summers off; we cannot be in it for the money.

(In it for the money?! -pause here for laughing to stop-)

If I took all the hours I work on my teaching job, throughout the entire calendar year- January through December- and figured out how much I made per hour it would probably equate to slightly higher than that of a camp counselor (which I have also done, thank you very much).  So no, I certainly am NOT in this job for the money.

However, I have always been fortunate to work in districts that have a decent salary schedule, with modest yearly increases for experience, and that fiscally respect me furthering my education. I doubt that I could walk into an office job somewhere tomorrow and get paid the same amount (without a lot of searching..., maybe a move..., certainly a commute....) and so while YES teachers are grossly underpaid, I'm still managing (though sometimes barely) to make ends meet.

I've never heard a fellow teacher say he or she was "in it" for the money. But I HAVE heard teachers say they teach for their summers off. Sigh. I know. And what's worse, is that I've heard this several times. From brand new fresh-off-the-internship to about-to-retire-awesome-ubber-teachers, some people are performing their art for commerce. They teach for those oh-so-lovely week vacations twice a year, for all the official holidays off (Thank you Mr. President) and for a guaranteed nine week vacation every hot summer sun, and (lest we forget) the occasional time the phone rings and you hear, "Stay in bed, Mrs. White, there's too much snow on the ground for school today." 

"Art cannot be merely commerce. It must also be a gift."

I'm glad that I am not one of those teachers. Yes, I appreciate the commerce teaching has afforded me, and I probably couldn't do it for free (I do have a mortgage payment!), but I give so much of myself to this profession. (I am also giving $240 a month in gas money to commute my gift.)

We cannot be teachers if we don't love, truly love, teaching- regardless of the summers off, the holidays, the pay, etc. We cannot be in this job for the commerce, we have to give our hearts and souls into this job. We owe it to our students and if we are only in it for the summers then we shouldn't be teaching.

I hope in two weeks when school lets out, teachers will take some time to reflect on where education has been, where it is headed, and where they believe they fit into the picture. To those who believe they have lost their gift I do hope you can get it back- your PLN may be able to help- but if you can't or won't, then maybe it's time to move on. There are hundreds of teachers artists out there looking to share their gift who would gladly take your place.


Knighton said...

I have been teaching for fifteen years and I have been known to say that I love my summers off. However, I may mean it in a different way than you think those teachers mean it. I enjoy being able to spend my summers off with my own children. I love having the time to read again. I love being able to rejuvenate. I love having the time to think about planning instead of being rushed. So, not everyone means what you think they mean when they say that phrase.

Kelly said...

Hi Knighton, thank you for your comment!

I too say how much I enjoy my summers off, I certainly don't have a problem with enjoying the time off we are given, we earn it! We NEED summers off to be able to do just what you said- "rejuvenate and plan without being rushed."

I was referring to those teachers who specifically got into this field JUST because they want their summers off, which is very sad because so many great teachers were RIFed this year who would be happy to fill those spots.