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In Defense Of Teachers

Since the school year in Illinois is roughly 185 days for teachers who work an 8-hour day it's safe to compare that number to the 250 days of work that year-round people work. That means teachers work 74% of the time compared to the YR folks. Don't forget the extra duty and coaching and clubs they sponsor. Practice time notwithstanding, they also attend the sporting events and musical programs students perform in even if they don't sponsor them. They go because they support their students.

This translates to much less than the working person, but the average salary of teachers divided by number of days worked equates to about $243.24 per day which is less than a person who stays home to babysit other people's kids. Does the government require that those babyitters meet standards and benchmarks of educational proportions? No. If they did, I'd hope more students would come to school with phonemic awareness and able to rhyme so we wouldn't start behind already. In fact, we educators aren't leaving children behind, they're coming to us that way.

Here's a good sampling of what teachers do during their summers "off."

Pay for and take classes to move up on the pay scale.

Read lots of books they're interested in as well as professional books to help students with disabilities and problems (e.g. autism, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia) so those students can experience a measure of success when school starts.

Attend the school supply sales for their own children and pick up "just a couple things" for the poverty students in their own classrooms. This, for me, comes to no less than $500. Each year.

Lunch with girlfriends at mediocre restaurants trying not to recall the shitty school lunches and having to beg for an extra cup of cheese for that lame-ass taco they serve 5 times a month.

Check out their slimming profiles in the mirror from lack of said cheese and pray they don't put on the weight again in the Fall. Usually, this is a failure for me.

Get relief from all the students selling them crap to benefit their school and take home stickers with Hello Kitty! on them and use for love notes for their own children.

Pretend to be a SAHM (or SAHD) and get all their errands during the day and try to fit in all the time they didn't get all the attention they needed during the school year while their parent was taking care of other people's children.

Shower love on their own children both because they want to and because their children have to attend school events with their teacher-mother.

Drive their own children to camps and programs and the library so they can be enriched during the summer.

Get their teaching license renewed OR pay for another set of transcripts to be paid for those summer graduate classes.

Keep an eye on Police Beat in the newspaper and pray none of their students are in trouble or dead.

Revel in delicious freshly-ground coffee and save money on all that drive-through coffee.

Find and write grants so they can get money to help pay for classroom things like chalk, markers, and whiteboards. Technology would be nice, but it takes a backseat to those other necessities.

Wake early because their spouse still needs to wake up and go off to work.

Rent all the movies they missed during the school year.

Plan the scope and sequence for the new textbooks so the curriculum for the state in which they live matches that of the district in which they work.

Take an emotional break from caring for the 600 or so students in their school.

Take a physical break from stopping fist-fights in the hallways or on the playgrounds.

Lift weights at the gym so they are able to restrain students bigger than they are during those fights, all the while remembering that the law tells us we're only able to "cover our heads and protect ourselves, but not get involved."

Pick up extra clothes at Goodwill and The Salvation Army for students who don't have decent clothing. Also, they save their own children's clothes to take to school and keep in a closet for the occasional accident a student has.

Beg every friend who has a pool if our "kids can get together".

NOT get called a "ho" or "bitch" once a week. Monthly is fine by me.

Remember why they went into education.

Get called and emailed by administrators asking to come in and work on things that flew to the wayside during the school year.

Drink a glass of wine nightly without worry of a headache coupled with loud students the next day.

Escape parents who blame us for everything from failing to teach mulitplication facts to challenging their "gifted" student to calling the parent if their child scraped their elbow on the desk because they were chasing another student with a pencil.

Download music and watch videos to be aware of the influences they deal with daily. Also, so we know that when they call us a "biznatch" it's really the same thing as being called a "bitch".

Miss our students and worry about the ones we know haven't eaten a full meal since school was in session.

Defend ourselves passionately for the time we get off remembering that the archaic 9-month school year was a benefit to farmers and is really no longer compulsory.
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Reader Comments (42)

Your blog today brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for all that you do as a teacher and to all the teachers reading this thank you. As a working mother and a student, I often feel guilt for not spending every waking moment of the day with my children. Its heartening to know that teachers are as dedicated as they are to the welfare of our kids and I feel less guilty knowing that my children will have the blessing to spend time with teachers such as yourself. You may not hear this THANK YOU again!

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJess~sapientia2010

As Jess said, Thank you! You and K over at the Barnyard are really the only teachers blogs I read. I am impressed with both you and her. I love to read your entries and this one really did give me a great perspective on my children and their teachers. As well as being a great teacher, you are a wonderful, amazing, bold woman. Thanks for caring for our kids!

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoAnn

I am proud to be a teacher. I will miss being a teacher on a daily basis, but I will still be a teacher to my child and once a teacher always a teacher. Thank you for telling it like it is. I challenge anyone out there who thinks teachers have it easy to walk a day in our shoes and then say the same thing.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

What a big heart you have squeezed in between slurps of coffee and nibbles of cheese. I know you are making a difference in so many kids. You can't not feel love that big. You're great. :)

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercolleengirl

People make you defend your time off? Incredible. Seems like you needs these months just to regain your strength for the oncoming year, take a breathe and rejuvenate. You know, I don't know how appropriate this is, but you have a lot of people who read you and could potentially contribute to a student fund (clothes, chalk, classroom materials, etc.). I think there's actually Websites' out there that will take/track the cash you raise. Uhm, just in case post BlogMe, you want another grand project! Again, not sure this is appropriate...

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterfizzle

Oh, I love you! *hugs* Please oh please let my girls continue to get awesome educators like you. And I'll do my part as a parent, Girl Scouts Honor.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

As a child raised by a teacher and a social worker, neither of whom had the sense to come home when the work day ended. I think I chose nursing out of laziness. Between the teaching and the classes and the extracurricular obligations, my stepfather had books stacked 3 feet deep on the dining room table and all around the house 12 months out of the year.

After one semester of teaching junior high school English, my mother went screaming into the masters in social work program.

Kudos to you my dear. Many are called but few are truly chosen. I envy you. Your finger is on the pulse of the future.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNursePam

I so desperately want to be a teacher, despite all this. The only problem I have is that going through the student teaching program requires me to be available all day, five days a week, for a sixteen-week period. Color me crazy, but I think the banks would foreclose on my house if I did that and wound up salary-less during that time.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Applause to you and all teachers. I totally agree with Kevin's first sentence. Lucky for me, I'm married and the husband makes enough that in exactly 11 months and 26 days, I'll be starting the certification process. I'll be bookmarking this post for those days that prove a little rougher than usual...

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjenni

I would normally make a smart ass remark, but I'm afraid I might get a kung fu kick through my computer screen.:)

Also, the lady that babysits for me this summer is a teacher. She needs the extra money.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom

*bowing head, scuffling toes in dirt, okay...carpeting*

Everything I said yesterday was meant in jest...and I am sorry now that I said it. *taking my foot out of my mouth*

I think we sometimes forget how hard you work and how much you put into your job. Most of us with regular year round jobs, clock in and clock out...leaving our jobs behind and not worrying about the important stuff that you have to do. We get stressed, but at least for me, I dont have peoples lives in my hands...if a letter doesnt get typed, no one will go hungry.

Thank you for the extra that you do and I am sorry for my stupid comments. I think those of us that made stupid comments yesterday deserve a "You're so pretty".

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I know I've spouted off at the mouth today but I must say this: it's not because of any comment from yesterday. Many were in jest and I knew that (Chin up, Beth! ;-) ). There were also more private emails that people sent me yesterday about it. Must have struck a chord.

However.... there are some lurkers who read me who ACTUALLY CALLED ME UP TO TALK ABOUT MY POST. Some are teachers and some are not, but they surprised me because I didn't think they cared much for my site (even though I don't hide it from anyone). I got into a heated discussion with one of them yesterday about the work that teachers do so I pulled out this thing I started writing a long time ago, added to it, and posted it today.

Fizzle's suggestion isn't too far off, but I'll have to think about another project. In the meantime, I'll remind people to Adopt a Classroom at where they can choose the city, state, and school they'd like to contribute to either for a one time donation or for the year.

Do you work for a company that wants to donate? Sign up.
Do you and your family believe charity begins at home? Sign up and introduce yourself to a school in your area that needs it.

In all sincerity, I'm grateful for these comments. Thank you.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMocha

I have the greatest respect and admiration for teachers. I wish all parents did.

Thanks for the reminder that your summers are not all vacation, and that you give so much of yourself to your students, year-round.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermothergoosemouse

All I can say is "That's a lot of work."

Would you like to trade for a day? It'll be easy (for you, I may not be able to handle kids for 8 hours)!

I deal with elderly people who want to buy travel insurance. They need to complete medical questionnaires over the phone and they can't hear, they don't know what kinds of medications they take, they tell me every ailment they've had since 1952, and then they hollar at me because the rate is $1700 for 90 days and that's too high for someone on social security. And I work for a company with too many "cheifs and not enough indians" as the old saying goes....Hey! Mocha! Maybe you could come here and put these people in line!!!!

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDana


July 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkelli

As the Mom to one spastic ADHD kid I always kiss the teachers ass with extra lip gloss! I know it is a job I could not do and I always feel sorry for the poor soul who has my Mason in there (great name, huh?). The funny thing is they love him even though he is a great big pain and I don't think they are just telling me that. Don't get me wrong I love him to pieces but, I'm not one of those my kid is a freaking angel Moms. It makes me feel good that the school system I am in lets me help in the teacher choice for the year. We keep getting these very patient, loving but FIRM teachers. I love you guys because if I had to home school him, well dear God I can't even finish that statement. Enjoy every second of your vacation and thanks!!

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Don't you just love how teachers, who get paid so little already, are then "required" to spend their own money every few years to take more classes in order to get their licence renewed? I think that teachers should continue to lean, however, with the small salary they already earn, and the outragous costs of taking these classes, it seems a little rediculous sometimes.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterInTheFastLane

I agree with David Letterman... whenever he meets a teacher in his audience during one of his schticks, he ALWAYS thanks them and calls teaching "the most nobel profession."

So, like the others in these comments - THANK YOU for what you do for our children.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

AMEN to you!! I don't see why our profession needs to defended summer-in, summer-out. We help other people's kids for 9 or 10 months out of the year and yet are still required to defend our "summers off."

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTracey

My mom is a teacher, and I still volunteer in her classroom! Weekends, evenings, summers - your job is never done. There is a reason that I didn't go into education as a career. I knew how hard you work and how little thanks you get. Teachers are (to be terribly trite) unsung heroes. It is horribly sad that the current trend is to villify teachers rather than encourage and praise them. Thanks for all you do!

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Teachers, like police, firefighters and the military are an underpaid, undersung class of heroes in my book. They are all public servants whose daily struggle is expected and often taken for granted. The calling is made to all, but only few will answer to serve their fellow man, woman or child. Even fewer will rise to the top and make us take notice. Kel, you are in that class. I applaud YOU and your colleagues for the sacrifices you make and the challenges to which you rise. And I personally want to thank, Mrs. Mitchell (K & 2), Sr. Rita Ann (1), Mrs. Corrigan (3), Mrs. Sullivan (4), Ms. Barnet (5 & 7), the late Sister Edwardine (6), Sister Xavier (8), and the countless others in HS and college who taught, molded and shaped me. And to Ms. Strong (F), who taught me to write as well as I do.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJuli

I too am disturbed that you "have to defend" a profession that should be placed in a place of high esteem and *is* quite honestly by most reasonable people.

Thanks for the suggestions on what we can actually do besides the notes, flowers and anonymous checks that already go to my daughter's teachers.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeannie

So, what I'm getting out of this is that a teacher's work is never done? Is that an accurate summation? I always knew you were a GREAT teacher and mother, but GEESH WOMAN!! I'm going to suggest you get a DESERVE ONE!!

So nice to see yo come by...I hope you liked my pics!

HUGS!! :)

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia


Mocha Momma is conducting interviews in anticipation of next weekend's BlogHer conference. When did you start blogging and why? I started blogging in September '02. I quit my job in Minneapolis earlier that year and spent a few months road...

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterswirlspice

Well said! I have enough teachers in my family to agree wholeheartedly!

Take a day off Woman!


July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterZman

YOU never have to defend teachers. I only wish they were paid what they are worth....If salary were measured by appreciation you would be a rich woman my friend. Thank you for being who you are.....A TEACHER!

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEarl the squirrel

You are awesome, and as a parent who has probably driven her child's teachers a bit batty during the year, I thank you for all that you do for the kids.

I read your posts on my blog, and thank you for your support. You're pretty great yourself, woman. Wish I was going to BlogHer to meet you. If you ever decide to visit the mouse down here in the FLA, I've got a drink for you.

sned me an email at crazedmommyatgmaildotcom. Would love to chat with you.


July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterShash

Thanks for the memories because all you wrote was so on target. Even after we retire we still get together in the summer to share with the ones still on the front lines. I frequently see kids who remember me, years later.

I am just finding your blog today, and what a spectacular first entry to get to read.

Thank you for all you do. We are all who we are because of our teachers. You are owed the greatest debt. I hope it is repaid in the success of your students and the joy you bring them. I can tell your kids must adore you.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNoreen

My mother was an 2-3 teacher for 35 years. Reading your post was like looking back on my childhood. Did you mention the screaming parents who start in on your daughter thinking it is you? (I learned all about the word f*** from one of those calls. Hopefully IL's benifet package is as nice as your northern neibgbor. I worry less about her in retirement then I did in the later stressful time of her working life.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterThe Lilac Penguin

You know I already think you're a saint for what you do. I grew up observing the effects of teaching in modern times on my father, and, summers? Let's see--for example, the summer I was 9? My dad was on a university's athletics staff, he mowed lawns, he worked at a retail clothing store, and he cooked at a burger joint. AND my mother was working more than full-time, AND we were still barely scraping by. It's a crying shame, is what it is, but you know my feelings on this.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

OH MY GAWD. You just so effeciently and precisely wrote about me. Every line I was sitting at my monitor like, "Holy Shit! That's right on. Exactly. I do that too!" so on and so forth.
Thanks. You just, in one post, got me ready mentally for the school year. You also reminded me that I need to buy enormous amounts of pencils next week. Next week.

Oh, and kudos for staying with the middle school aged chilluns. I had to switch it up after 4 years. Elementary school here I come!

Cheers to you, fellow teacher.

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterangeela

I will also have to applaud you for all that teachers put up with as little as they are actually paid. I know most of them at the schools my kids have had to go to are under-appreciated and underpaid. Having been put into a position to have to homeschool one for two years, I am ever so thankful for all the extras the teachers put into the children... I am thankful for the ones that even took the extra time that saw in my troubled child the same things I did and helped me when I homeschooled him.

I think that anyone that does not think the teachers deserve more than they get need to go teach for a week... especially at a middle school or high school.

And there are some parents that just need to be re-educated about what is acceptable behavior and how to accept responsibility for things coming out of their mouths or their children's mouths....

July 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJill

I experienced some of the very best and very worst of teachers growing up. The "bad" were few and probably severely disturbed. The "Best" were numerous and extraordinary.

I still remember the first time a teacher encouraged me in my writing, and gave me a sincere compliment -- THEN pointed me towards some avenues to actually develop it, which have influenced everything else in my life since then.

The good ones don't begin to get their deserved respect, either from students OR the students' parents. I still remember one of my favorite teachers defending herself for failing a student who didn't do a single homework assignment... she had made numerous calls to the parents, tried to schedule parent/teacher conferences, offered to do tutoring herself after school, and basically bent over backwards to help this student. Of course, in the minds of the kid's parents, it was still somehow HER fault their lazy kid didn't somehow come out with a passing grade.

I can't wait for my kids to get into school. They'll probably be mortified, but I have every intention of being a "Classroom Mom" wherever possible, and taking every volunteer opportunity I can handle to assist in their education. I feel for teachers these days. They get stuck doing the job of teacher AND parent half the time, and with little respect and pathetic monetary compensation.

When I'm president, I am SO imposing a "sponsor a teacher" tax on professional athletes and actors. Cut their ridiculous incomes by 3 or 4 percent, and give teachers a little of that bling!

July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMeL

I came here from" rel="nofollow">Dave's, and I just had to say that this was a great post.

I'm not a teacher, but I've always respected those teachers who put in the effort that you obviously do. That's not to say that there aren't teachers who coast through classes and do nothing all summer, but I'd like to think that teachers like you are in the majority.

July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAvitable

My mother retired after teaching for 35 years. She even taught me as a Senior in High School in Journalism (Yearbook, bascially) and Honors English. I have long admired and respected the long hours and devotion a teacher has to her job, not only to her students.

My mother was the kind of teacher that kids would come back years and years later and cry to and tell that she had changed their life. I respected her so much.

I for a brief time in my life toyed with the idea of teaching myself because nothing you have in this life can't be made made a little better if we give a little away.

Anyway, I admire you and your career choice. It is not easy. You DO make a difference.

July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I don't know...I like my job (when I don't have to deal with idiots that is)!

July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJ to the Wall

Teachers rock! And yes, they take the blame for everything. And because of that we have the most highly educated teachers ever, yet they just are never good enough. Isn't that curious? You'd think someone would catch on that something else might be to blame if Johnny can't read.

July 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMommyWithAttitude

What a kick ass tribute to what teachers do! As a teacher from NJ, I appreciate the sentiment. Of course the people who appreciate this the most are often teachers themselves.:(

July 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

Dear Mocha, your post today made me a tad tired. So many reminders and I still have three weeks of freedom left.

But, I agree whole-hardedly with your post. It's more like a calling than a profession.


July 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkaty

This is late, but I'd just like to add, AMEN!!!

Still working on that tan,

July 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterT.

Oh, and one week of freedom to go. It all went by so fast...

July 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterT.

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