5/22/06 ~ Venting and philosophizing

Cue the Alice Cooper music. School's (almost) out for summer. The past two weeks have been rather hectic. The students are ready, and so am I. This year, more than most, was a back-breaker. Some students like to pride themselves on being able to devour a wayward teacher and spit them into early retirement. I'm sorry to burst any myths you may have about that "one class" with that "one mean teacher" who quit teaching "because of you" -- it usually doesn't work like that. The faces change, but the archetypes stay the same. The one troublesome student who's leaving will be replaced by another troublesome student next year.

It's only the good students, the kind you want to adopt and call your own, the ones you wish you could take credit for, who seems to break from the archeytypes. They stand out in your mind as the exception. Teachers retire early, because of the overall weight of the profession -- not from one class or one student, but hundreds of students in hundreds of classes that you've taught over several years. (In August, I'm starting my seventh year. Or the way I measure it, my oldest former student would be 23.)

This year was my toughest, and not because of the students or the work load. It's the politics, the bureacracy, the meaningless forms and paperwork I have to do. Everything that doesn't involved standing in front of my students and teaching. There was a month or two where if someone could offer me a job with better pay I would've left. And speaking of pay, it wasn't too bad when I first started. Considering I had only worked minimum wage jobs before I began teaching, that monthly check felt like a million dollars. Hence why I bought a Volkswagen Jetta GLS with black leather and a killer sound system. Won't do that again. Now, six years of work experience later, and I'm making almost exactly the same amount as when I started. How many of you would work for seven years at the same job without a raise? My pay scale has gone up, but so has my health insurance. Some years, insurance costs have risen faster than my salary. Add in the expenses of a house and daycare, and that glorious pay check doesn't feel as glorious as it used to.

Sorry. I must remind myself to be thankful. I'm fortunate to have a job, especially with so many skilled and college-educated people unemployed. Teaching represents a secure profession, where the company won't downsize me in order to improve the value of their stock. Employers complain that their employees have no loyalty. However, I've found my generation to be intensely loyal -- it's just the baby boomers (if you must be called that) aren't trustworthy. The 20 and 30 year olds are having to relive the experience of their absent parents through an equally uncaring management. Pursuing wealth and the "standard of living you've grown accustomed to" became more important than creating something that would last. I realize it's a generalization, but not a hasty one. Should we be surprised the wealthiest generation is also the most corrupt? My peers, in order to simulate the same appearance of wealth, will live and die in credit card debt and college loans, wallowing our parent's optimism.

Happy Monday everyone. A miscellaneous request: Everytime I meet someone new and they find out I'm a teacher, they immediately share with me an anecdote about some teacher they hated. Please stop doing that.