In Defense of Teachers

by Darwin on July 15, 2010

Well, I was reading a blog from my buddy Evan over at MTJM.  I like Evan and I like his blog and we often agree.  But after he went on a rant about teachers (Why Teachers Anger Me), and in reading some of the comments, it was evident to me that there are a lot of misconceptions about teachers out there.  In the spirit of disclosure, I’m not a teacher.  But my wife used to teach, which was a complete awakening for me.  I used to believe many of the same things people commonly say about teachers, but upon learning more about teachers through my wife’s occupation, and now, being a parent of school-age children, I have a different perspective.  So, some of Evan’s complaints (in red) and then my perspective:


Who else can’t get fired in America?”

Well, we have multiple friends that are teachers that lost their jobs in New Jersey for next year.  State budget cuts.  I agree the notion of tenure is somewhat nonsensical and should really apply more to college professors who need to “express themselves” without fear of reprisal from the college administrators and that routine primary school teachers should be teaching instead of espousing on 9/11 conspiracy theories, but this isn’t just a “tenure” thing.  This is a UNION thing, which applies to many professions, not just teachers.  So, why single out teachers and not the millions of public sector workers living off the public teet?  And even the non-union bureaucrats supervising them in your state and municipal ranks?  More on that later.

“Guaranteed Raises

Economy sucks? Who cares….I am a teach and am guaranteed a raise?”

Again, this is true with all unions, especially the public sector unions.  In fact, many unions would sooner see their own laid off rather than accept free-market wages.  This isn’t a teacher thing, this is a union thing.


How many of my readers have a State backed defined benefit pension?

Public Sector Unions again.  In many cities teachers need to work 30 years to get reach max pension, whereas police and firemen can work 20 years.  What?  They start at 21, work til 41, collect a full pension and work as security, contractors or whatever from 41 on while collecting a full pension on the side?  Oh, and did I mention that they jack up their “pay” in the final years by working overtime and waving flags at construction sites so that the calculation for the pension based on final 5 years worked is jacked up (see outrageous examples). I do agree that ALL public sector employee pensions should be ceased for new hires.  States and municipalities just can’t afford it.  But the teachers don’t even have the most lavish pensions.

The Hours

They count down June like it is the second coming of Christ.   Well you know who doesn’t get off all summer? Me, and everyone else with a normal job.

I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions about teachers.  Take my wife for example.  In her district, the teachers had to work after the kids were done with school and return before Labor Day when the kids return.  What’s coined as “all summer” is really about 7 weeks.  Now, teachers get NO VACATION DAYS.  I’m at about 5 weeks total vacation/floating holiday at work and I’m a typical white collar industry guy.  So, my wife would get 2 more weeks off than me.  That sounds  lot different than “the whole summer off”.  Now, add to that that in order to maintain her certification, she was constantly taking additional courses and earning credits – on OUR DIME, just to stay certified.  That’s just the days off.  Now, how about work day?  My wife had lesson plans, emails/calls with parents, dealing with individual kid issues, after-school activities, and then there’s the grading.  I’m amazed by people that think a teacher works 8-3.  It’s more like 7-4, drive home, then do 2 more hours of work a night at home.  The grading the preparation for the next day seems never-ending.  Even in an affluent area, there are all kinds of kids on “IEPs” that require special attention and mentoring/monitoring.  The parents expect constant feedback and replies to their incessant emails.  On top of that, my wife was constantly paying for supplies out of her own pocket.  Granted, my wife was a very dedicated teacher in a very affluent district that only hired the best.  And maybe she’s not representative of all teachers – we know there are crappy ones out there.  But I think she’s more representative of the norm than the exception.  People just don’t know it.

Perceived Stress

You can’t get fired, you are off for 1/3 the year, and some of you are ‘teaching’ 5 and 6 year olds, and yet you are stressed?!

End Rant.

How would you feel if some kid was acting up in class and having a backbone, you addressed it?  Well, little Johnny goes home and tells mommy and daddy that the teacher has it out for him and you’re “mean”.  Well, next thing you know, spineless principal hauls you into his office with the parents frowning at you and demands an explanation and doesn’t back you up.  You’re a new teacher so you’re worried about losing your job because you don’t have tenure yet.  The principal finds it easier to appease parents than his teachers (while they’re screaming “WE PAY YOUR SALARY – YOU WORK FOR ME! SO LISTEN UP AND GET WITH THE PROGRAM!”), so he doesn’t back you up.  You have to basically suck it up and not tell that they’re total a*&holes and that their kid is a future serial killer.  You have to make amends and move on.  Until you face little Johnny in class the next day and he knows he owns you.  He’s a punk again.  What do you do?  While you may find it difficult to relate, that is stressful!

My Take:

What pisses people off about teachers shouldn’t be “the teachers the people”, it should be unionization.  Most teachers my wife worked with weren’t all into the whole union thing, my wife actually used to laugh at some of the silly rules and things some of the older teachers complained about.  But as a teacher, a portion of your paycheck is forced to go to union dues.  Those dues in turn go into Democratic coffers.  Democrats in turn, continue to vote in favor of more union-friendly rules and legislation.  Teachers Union leaders then see these benefits and continue to root for the Dems and the cycle continues.  In a free market without a union, none of this happens (well, OK, business folks usually vote Republican because they’re more business-friendly).  The whole system’s pretty perverse.  But the individual teachers have nothing to do with this and frankly, most of them want nothing to do with it.  But why are these jabs aimed at teachers?  This is a UNION issue.  Police unions. Firemen, government workers, their unions are all the same – negotiate with a gun at the table (Look at the Oakland Police after layoffs now saying they won’t respond to certain crimes like burglary, etc – they could have just accepted some wage/pension concessions).

If ranting about teachers, let’s rant about other professions

Police and Firemen

Of course, within the comment stream, people are lavishing police and firemen with praise because far be it from anyone to criticize them.  Yes, their jobs are dangerous, but heck, being a fisherman is more dangerous.  Being a logger is more dangerousRepairing power lines if more dangerous.  Being a trash collector is more dangerous.  These are the facts folks, in terms of fatalities per worker (source), but none of these professions make what police and firemen make, nor do they have the same guaranteed raises, pensions and other benefits that private workers don’t. I have nothing against cops, firemen or anyone else for doing the job they do.  I’m just stating the facts and asking why certain groups are protected from criticism for the exact same issues.


Let’s not stop there though. Evan’s a lawyer.  Why do we need so many lawyers and why does the US have the highest lawyers per capita on Earth?  We have by far more lawyers per person than any other country.  And our lawyers get paid a hell of a lot.  Why?  It’s a cartel.  Who are our lawmakers that make it so difficult to get anything done without a lawyer?  Our “lawmakers” are primarily ex-lawyers themselves! And when they leave office, they practice law again.  So, it’s the inmates running the asylum!  Guess who is on the TOP 10 list of ALL-TIME donors to politicians for Political Action Committees?  Lawyers! Right up there with the Teacher’s Union by the way (source).  They’ve renamed themselves from the Trial Lawyers Association to the “American Association for Justice” in a conniving manner to mask their true colors.  But I know who they are and now you do too.  They give overwhelmingly to the Democratic party and oops! Guess what was left out of the most massive expansion of government in the history of this country in Health Care Reform?  TORT REFORM!!! Why?  Because there would be fewer frivolous lawsuits and less money to line the pockets of lawyers – which is funneled to the Dems to fund the next election cycle.

Now, this isn’t to be mean and knock other professions.  It would be just as easy to trash my job or any other.  I’ve had relatives who were cops killed in the line of duty in Newark and my best friend’s a lawyer.  So, I know them as people and I know about their sacrifices.  But I’m sharing facts and asking why it’s taboo to criticize some professions and it’s a national pastime to criticize others (admittedly, lawyers do take their share of knocks).

But, the point here wasn’t to trash everyone’s job, but rather educate folks on what it takes to be a good teacher, why the system’s broken and why it has very little to do with individual teachers, but rather, the insidious role unions and the government play in poisoning virtually every profession they touch.

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