History: We’re only in it for the money.

12 06 2012

While I was grading AP exams in Louisville last week, one of the question leaders wore a t-shirt one day with the title of this post on it. Everybody at my table desperately wanted one of their own because they thought it was hilarious. I was the only TT faculty member at the table. The vast majority of people at the table and in the gigantic room were high school history teachers whose sacrifices for the sake of education make mine look puny by comparison.

Then Scott Walker survived recall and I read this (at TPM of all places) and that t- shirt didn’t seem all that funny anymore:

I don’t want to demonize School teachers, and I am sure it must be a tougher job than I think. But over the last 10 years, I have taken a full 1 week off for vacation a grand total of 4 times. I take a day here and a day there, but if I am lucky it will work out to 2 weeks per year, usually less. Then there is the ever present e-mail, texts and phone calls that intrude into my evenings and weekends.

Teachers get that much time off around Christmas time.

You should have heard the string of expletives I was mumbling after reading this. Forget prep time and professional development. I was literally surrounded by hundreds of high school history teachers working their hearts out during their summer break in large part because their salaries stink.

The obvious lesson here is that nobody understands what teachers do. Therefore, it’s imperative that we all tell them. I think adjuncts have taken the lead here nicely on the higher ed level, but I suspect professors at state institutions like mine really need to follow the same course before the majority of the public starts treating us like the teachers and other public employees of Wisconsin.

I have a close friend in the Badger State who works at a community college. His school doesn’t have tenure, but they have a union. “The union is better than tenure,” they told him back in the day. Now the whole history department will have a target on its back since it’s technically in a vocational school already. Justifying your employment is not an exercise you want to have to do at all, but it will likely go over better if you lay the groundwork long in advance.

Which means don’t let technology make you lazy. Just because your job can be automated doesn’t mean it should be automated and it certainly doesn’t mean that you should be happy to let that happen. After all, software doesn’t need health insurance. Autograders don’t need retirement. That’s why the powers that be will drop you in a heartbeat if you make yourself expendable.

I write a lot about the importance of personal interaction with respect to teaching on this blog. That’s not just a good idea for justifying your employment. It’s the right thing to do pedagoically too.

After all, you’re not really in this for the money are you?

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One response

24 06 2012
Michael Olneck

A read worth the time: Horace’s Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School,
by Theodore R. Sizer. 1984.

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