Letter to the Editor: ‘Why Teachers Have It Good’ – Greenville Journal | CialisWay

On the contribution of a local new station, a Facebook Ph.D. commented: “The teachers understood it well [teachers] get a great pension they never pay Social Security, they get free lunch, they only work 9 months a year and have weekends off.”

I wasn’t supposed to read the comments, but since I did, I felt the need to clarify… no, I feel the need to rant, as Mr. Facebook Ph.D. refused to get involved. Too many people believe that.

teachers have pensions. In South Carolina, where I taught until retirement, we contribute 7% of our salary towards retirement. seven percent. Even after I retired and “double dipped,” a misnomer, I paid 7% into my pension, which didn’t add a penny to my retirement.

We also contribute to our own post-retirement healthcare at an average of $100.00 per month. It’s great health care with Medicare unless you go deaf, blind, or lose your teeth.

Nationwide, most teachers pay Social Security, although there are some teachers who don’t, about 1.2 million. Their states chose to roll the dice that the pensions their state offered would pay better. Some rolled “seven come eleven” and others rolled “snake eyes.”

Free lunches? “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” and most teachers don’t have much time to swallow it anyway. I’m sure there are school districts that offer teachers free lunches, but I’ve bought mine or a paper bag with a sandwich, yogurt, and a box of nabs in it for over 40 years. Oh, for those days of rectangular pizza slices with canned corn and a cup of peaches.

I usually ate on the go, making sure little Johnny or Jenny Sue didn’t do anything stupid. My favorite place to work was the toilet monitor… I ate my turkey sandwich while inhaling “Ode de Urin” to make sure little Johnny didn’t light a blunt or flush anyone’s head in the urinal.

The last nail that caught my attention was the fallacy of taking three months off in the summer and having weekends off. “There’s no such thing as a summer off or a weekend off.” There are courses to take, teaching workshops to attend, standards to review and summer annual plans to make… and now you need to review your curriculum and make sure nothing, what you teach, or no reading on CRT, Marxism, or why little Johnny has two fathers or two mothers.

weekends? Work to be graded, grades noted, and lesson plans to be turned in first thing Monday morning.

But what about your planning period? Parents who need to be contacted, or professional learning communities or data meetings you can attend…a quick trip to the bathroom? Planning? Planning is rare. Did I mention most weekday nights suck too?

As a side note, because many are confused, teachers are paid for the 180 days they teach, and whatever planning days are added. In our state of South Carolina, it’s 190 days. federal holidays? nope Summer? nope Our 190 days are divided into 12 months so we don’t starve in the summer. Despite this, many have to take summer jobs just to supplement their families’ income, if they can make it alongside the workshops, we are not paid… or paid little to attend.

So while we get paid over the summer, we don’t get paid FOR the summer. Also note that many school districts are transitioning to year-round schools. Have wages gone up… no, no, no, they’ll be there for another 190 days.

A lot is written and there are countless opinions about the shortage of teachers. Good, experienced teachers drop out and few new teachers enter the profession. Everyone who slept through my US history class gave an opinion.

Many teachers have pointed out the increasing lack of respect from politicians, administrators, parents and students. While the lack of respect has certainly increased, it is not new. Teachers have never been recognized as “real” professionals… we are not even recognized as government employees unless it benefits the government.

When I first encountered a class of smiling faces about 50 years ago, I was kind of an anomaly, a male in a female-occupied profession. At junior high school, there were only four men on the staff. A principal, a deputy principal, a physical education teacher and yours sincerely.

Male teachers were recruited as coaches, not as classroom mentors, unless a student was a top athlete. Trainers with history degrees were a dime a dozen, so I added a physical certification to put beans on the table… ridiculously small plates of beans. Yes, I was originally hired as a coach but am proud of my teaching career. I didn’t teach to coach, I coached to teach.

Why might you ask? Teaching was seen as women’s work, a nice side job to keep the “little lady” out of trouble and supplement the household income of the man who “did the real work.” This was an improvement on the days when “school girls” had to quit when they got married. The view that teaching was a side hustle is one of the reasons teachers were not paid, if at all, as professionals until recently. Currently, women make up 75% of the country’s teachers.

Another problem in the former “textile country” is that you don’t need a lot of education to operate a machine, and uneducated workers don’t expect to earn as much. “Keep ’em dumb, keep ’em poor” may have been a mantra.

This belief is a holdover from the textile days that ended in [1980s and 1990s] and why we find it difficult to find skilled technicians and engineers to meet our needs. We need to recruit from other states and countries to maintain our 24th place in the economic outlook rankings.

Teachers tend to be looked down on because of the “those who can teach those who can’t teach” mentality that has been around for much longer than it has been in the last decade. A family member once asked me in all seriousness when I would get a real job. Another asked me when I would finish teaching at a secondary school.

Public education is in decline, and parents, politicians, and those who believe education should be used to fat certain people’s wallets (private schools) are throwing the dirt into the grave. With 300,000 teaching positions open, many states are lowering their teaching standards to give anyone who can breathe the opportunity to teach. Many parents believe this is fine as long as their schools offer free childcare and a few free meals during the day. Another slap in the face for committed teachers.

Public education did not help itself. Inflated administrative costs, an emphasis on testing rather than problem-solving, passing everyone to increase graduation rates, and a post-graduation decline in literacy and math skills have made public education unpopular with certain groups, including myself. We continue to lag behind in math and reading. There are more Facebook Ph.Ds on the horizon, but they won’t be able to add and subtract either.

Add to this toxic concoction the politically motivated accusations of indoctrination, nursing, CRT classes, Marxism classes, etc. ad nauseam, and I understand why good teachers drop out and teacher education programs suck air. When I graduated from college, I had two appeal opportunities. In this environment I would take the other one.

I would like to highlight three points that typify the problems in South Carolina. This is an incomplete list.

At Gov. McMaster’s urging, we formed a task force in South Carolina to study teacher recruitment and retention. There are currently no teachers on the task force. These members are political appointments and the two who have taught have not done so for several decades.

A new state superintendent will be elected this November, and one candidate does not yet have the qualifications to run and no teaching experience. She has never stood in front of a classroom. I pray that she will not meet the qualifications in November because she is being elected in our state because so many people are voting for party-only votes.

If South Carolina’s education is fully funded this year, it will be the first time in over a decade.

If you want to know what’s wrong with education, try something else and it’s not a task force. Ask a teacher and get frontline teachers involved in problem solving… something we’ve really never done and probably won’t do. Until then, we will proudly exclaim, “Thank God for Mississippi.”

To sum up, a quote from former fellow teacher Brent Boiling sums it up: “Teachers at *** used to be like gourmet chefs…. creative and free to do their work as professionals. Now they are McTeachers.”

-Don Miller

letter to the editor

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