Saturday, June 03, 2006

For the Love of the Job

You ever notice how there are just some jobs that not everybody can do? I imagine that can be said about pretty much any job, due to skill sets or other educational requirements. but SOME JOBS... well, let's face it... they ain't for everybody.

Today, I'm thinking particularly about teachers, and more specifically, about my mom.

NOW, I know I've mentioned my mom on my blog before, and most of the time it's in some side comment where I'm defending some outlandishly stupid behavior I've done that my mom will most likely flip out about. I've probably depicted her as a VERY old-school, over-protective and firmly resolved tough bizzle. If I HAVE, it's because, well... she IS. She IS Irish and Hungarian, after all, AND is from Jersey. TRUST me when I tell you she is not one to mess with. Throw in a heaping dose of some stereo-typical Catholic attributes, and you'll have my mom as portrayed in a made-for-tv movie.

BUT... like any good and TRUE-to-life character... my mom is much more than that. The woman has some layers, people. Deep, complex, colorful layers that even I, after 33 years, am only beginning to understand the half of.

Some of the layers to my enigmom run in her professional sphere... she is a teacher.

my mom has been teaching for God knows how many years. seriously. I don't even know. Before I was born, I can tell you that. I remember her working in a nursery school, and I remember one other stint in a school in a town called woodbridge, (I Think??? all I really remember is the windows and the sinks in her class) she was a teacher for some junior-high/middle school kids for a while.... but for the past 21 years, she has been teaching in the same Catholic school.

let me repeat that. TWENTY ONE YEARS. in the SAME PLACE. Mostly first grade, with a few grade changes here and there, but for the majority of those 21 years, she has been a first grade teacher.

Now, I dunno about you, but I remember MY first grade teacher. (Mrs Counsman) I also remember a LOT about that particular school year. I mean, I remember some things here and there about kindergarten, but my strongest and first memories from school are from my first grade year. So even some what.... 28? years later, I remember shit that went down that year.

So that gets me thinking about my mom.... 21+ years of creating foundational memories for 15-30 kids at a time... that's a pretty big audience. no pressure, huh?

but anyways... all of that is really an aside. What I've seen over the past 21 years is a woman who not only goes to work every day, but brings home her work each night, too. whether it's the papers she grades, the lesson plans, letters to parents or the report cards... there was always SOME paperwork that had to be done.

and the children. I'd be lying if I said that every year wasn't a new batch of characters in our house. Each year, we'd hear about the child who can't stop crying, or wetting their pants, or experienced death in their family, or anything and everything. Every year, and every child.. my mother would teach, nurture and LOVE these children as if they were her own. She would emote her frustrations to us when she knew certain children could do better but were too lazy, she would anguish over the children that were experiencing trouble at home. She would beam with pride when 'her kids' did something good. Again... it was if each year we had a bunch of foster children in our family... they just didn't physically live in our house.

Now maybe some people say she did more than she needed to, and put more of herself into her job than she was required.... but now, as a parent.... I can definitely say I wouldn't want Rhena to be taught by anyone OTHER than the likes of my mother. Especially at the age of 6 and 7... I want to know that Rhena is in the care of someone that really loves what they're doing... and not just checking off tasks.

and it's not just that my mom went above and beyond her 'job requirements' for the 21+ years. She did it in circumstances that anyone with a professional job would just shudder at.

For example... as a working professional... over the course of 21 years, would you find it acceptable that your salary only increased approximately 12 thousand dollars? How many years would YOU stay at a job without even GETTING a raise?

How many days a week can you stand on your feet all day and not even get to take a lunch?

Do your employees shit their pants or throw up on you? Because apparently that's a common occurrence every year in the first grade.

DO you get told to go to professional workshops on your days off and not even get reimbursed for the time or money spent at said workshops?

Have you ever been told that you can't attend a funeral service because someone else from your company is going?

Do you have to pay for your own supplies?

Have you ever had to wait two months to see your grandchild because taking off during that time of year just wouldn't be good for your employees?

Perhaps you've been berated by the parents of one of your employees because you did not provide said employee with a snack that said parents forgot to give to employee that morning.

I could go on. The shit my mother has dealt with over the years has been horrible at times to down right ridiculous. Yet... for so many years... she stayed. Why? because of the children. because she's a teacher, and no matter what has been thrown at her, she believes what she does is important, and carries on.

This past week, my mother was finally offered a contract stating the conditions in which the school would have her work next year. Please ignore the fact that there are only 2 weeks left in this school year, thus making it virtually impossible for her to find employment elsewhere should she find the terms presented as unacceptable.

What she was 'offered' was to teach 27 children (FIVE of which would be special needs children), CHANGE to third grade, with NO monetary increase on her salary. Nothing says appreciation like completely changing your job role, taking on more responsibility, and doing it for the same shit money you're getting now.


I admire the hell out of my mother. I can NOT even begin to post about how much I look up to her and how she's set the bar in so many ways for how I believe HUMANS should be. But when it comes to teaching... she is second to none in my eyes. Sure, she's tough as nails, but she's GOOD. She constantly does whatever she can to get through to her kids... reaches out to parents so that the learning doesn't stop in the classroom, and too many times puts those kids' needs before those of her own.

She has dealt with shitty administration and suck-ass work conditions and real jack-fuck parents over the years. and unfortunately, moreso than ever... the shitty administration and suck-ass work conditions and jack-fuck parents have gotten worse.

I see it so much, even in some of the random people I meet that are parents. They expect the teacher to coddle and teach and nurture their child, but get downright pissy at the teacher when the child in unable to meet basic expectations in school. For example... we have some friends that got angry at their child's teacher when a book report was assigned in the 5th grade. ANGRY. because said child has been getting book reports since the third grade, and 'these teachers don't even tell the kids how to DO a book report.. they just expect the kids to know how." (let's ignore that parents just admitted that said child has been getting book reports assigned for the previous 2 years... that kind of ignorance even hurts ME to think about)

ANYWAYS... my point is this. As a teacher, you may be in charge of 20+ children at a time, yet will be expected to treat each child as if they are your only responsibility. Not everyone can do that, or for that matter, do it well.

I may be biased, but I know my mother does it, and does it really damn well. But alas... she has decided not to do it anymore.

After this recent 'contract offering'... she said no. No to the terms they presented, and no to the shit that comes along with it. SO in two weeks, my mom will have her last day of school.

and you know what? I know inside she's heartbroken.

True, she's proud of herself for finally saying 'no more' to the shit end of the stick she's been dealing with for so long... but she's a TEACHER... and I know she knows there's more in her to give.

And so the bittersweet story goes, right? The ole girl still has more fight in her. Maybe just maybe she can hang on for one more year.

But selfishly, I say NO MORE, and HOO-FUCKING-RAY that she's not going back. Why? BECAUSE the ole girl still has more fight left in her, and I want it for me. for my daughter, for my husband and brother and sister-in-law and nieces and nephew and my father and for any future child I may have.

I'll be DAMNED if some unappreciative institution breaks the spirit of my mother or tarnishes her career in any way. She has given SO MUCH of her time, her love, her energy, of HERSELF... and I know she's done it because she loves to do it, but it's high time she does it for people that will tell her how much they appreciate what she does and love her for it.

For the love of the job, my mother has done tremendous things in her years. I can not even BEGIN to say how proud I am of her, and how she has forever changed my perception of teachers in this world.

Selfishly, I am SO HAPPY she's not going back to school next year.... cause those rat-sab motherfuckers just don't appreciate her the way I feel they should. I DO feel bad for her in that it has come to a point where she drew her line and said no more.

But I take comfort in the knowledge that my mother is not done teaching yet. True.. she may not be in a classroom every day next year, but people like my mother will NEVER stop teaching. and God willing... I pray I will never stop learning from her.

I love you, mom... and I'm SO PROUD OF YOU.


Anonymous said...

That is exactly why I won't teach in the school system again.
There is no respect.

Thank God our school finally got a new principal. We have lost a few great teachers because of the biatch who was there.

Tell your mom to find a nice church with preschool and teach part time there.
It will fill that empty space and preschool parents LOVE their teachers!

The pay and benefits aren't great but it is part time and fun.

Good for her for standing up to them!

greekchickie said...

You just described my friend Andy to a T & the bullshit that all teachers put up with. Teaching is, by far, the BEST profession out there yet they are so under-appreciated. My friend Andy is the best teacher I know & she's thinking about leaving the profession as well. From the standardized testing, to the lack of support from Administration, she's fed up. It's such a shame because it sounds the profession continues to lose valuable individuals every year. This is who we trust our children to & Administration doesn't give a shit. "Just make those scores higher!"



Jewl said...

What would the world do without teachers? What would the world do without people like your Mother?
I hope your Mom is happy with whatever road she takes.

susie said...

Lovely tribute to your mom. I am so grateful she helped you become the wonderful human being you are now. That alone speaks volumes. I hope she enjoys a break from the hassles of that job and finds joy in new pursuits.

Sara said...

Awww you're so sweet. It is my hope every day when I send my baby to school that he will be with
someone like your mother. Otherwise I would go crazy.

gina said...

I just pray that she gets to do teaching next year without the bs that follows.

first grade is HARD. blake just finished and his teacher was a saint.

God has a plan for her :) cant wait to hear what it is.

Elvis said...

There is no way I couldn have written it better, kid. Mom deserves (and has deserved) so much more from the institution(s) that she's slaved for.

I'm all thrilled out that she finally outta there - I couldn't give a rat shit about that building or its management. That last offer was bad enough that I just can't fathom how they were able to make the offer with a straight face. Mom had the class not to counter-offer like I would have done, since I would ask them to jam that offer letter halfway up their asses and light it up like a candlewick.
I do feel bad about the missed opportunity of the next wave of kiddies that now will not get to sit at one of the desks in Mom's class. They're the only losers in all this.

Well - here comes a great new phase - I think we're all in for a treat.

Again - nice words, kid.

Christi said...

I absolutely LOVED being a teacher. I taught special ed., and even though I never had a planning period, rarely had a lunch, had TONS more paperwork than other teachers, etc, etc, I still loved "my boys" (I taught in an all-boys juvenile detention center). I miss them, and the job, so so much. However, I will never go back to teaching if I have a say, b/c the politics and all the crap that comes with teaching I will never again put up with! Like Novaks8 said, there is NO respect, and you as a teacher are expected to just smile and put up with it. I admire your mom, b/c, as you said, it really does take a special person to do it. I think I was a great teacher, and I loved every minute of it. I just don't have the self-control to smile and walk away! Thus the reason I have chosen, instead, to stay home w/my children and teach them! I can't wait till they're old enough to actually begin 'schooling'!

Jenni said...

very nicely put, Carrie. My mom has been a teacher at the same school for about 28 (?) years now. Jr. High no less (mainly). I totally related 99% of what you said to her. She hopes to retire in the next 2 years...just can't afford to right now. BUT, she taught Romeo and Juliet for about 27 of those 28 years, and this is the first year she hasn't taught ANY English. yippee! She was my teacher for 4 (yep, count 'em, 4) years in jr. high/high school. She is now the teacher w/ the most seniority at school, and gets paid almost the LEAST. It's really sad.

again, very nice tribute and I hope your Mama enjoys it!

Maria said...

Wow. I was only able to hack teaching for 3 years before I gave them the big fuck-off. Your mom is a hero for having enough love for the kids to be able to put up with all of that crap for 21 years.

I loved my students...but not that much.

Liza said...

awww :) really nice post! i love the passion :D hehe

stupid ass pistons.

Life Of Abbreviations... said...

Hey girl, I'm right there with you on the whole post. I'm the girl with TWO teaching parents who retired this week. Mom 36 years? Dad 42 years. And yes, underpaid, underappreciated, and many times taken for granted.
Special needs kids are very rough. Just like the gifted kids my mom teaches. Imagine being filled with a room full of rugrats who are actually smarter than you! EEEKKKKK!
Congrats to your mom for being a positive influence in so many lives! It really is a special gift!

Laina said...

That really sucks for the kids! Your mom definitely got the shaft, but it sounds like she will find some other way to fill her time, and there's no shortage of people who will fill her position, but I'm sure they won't do it as well, or as lovingly, and so the kids are the ones who are going to get screwed.