By far the question I get asked the most is “why did you become a teacher?”. I have no good answer for that question. I have made it clear that I never intended to be a teacher but once I stepped in front of a group of kids I began to fall in love with the profession for a lot of reasons. With 100% honesty I can tell you that when I decided to become a teacher I didn’t think about:
- Having summers off. It truly never crossed my mind and it truly has never happened. I work at STEM Camp in the summer, host a Back to School Math and Reading Clinic for incoming 6th graders, go to many PDs beyond the required 24 hours, spend weeks redoing my classroom, read all the education books that I don’t have time for during the school year, and make plans about how I need to improve on in the coming year in order to best serve my students.
- Losing my pension. When I relocated back to Kentucky to teach I knew their pension system was strong. Perhaps I didn’t do enough research but I assumed that it would be there for me when the time came for me to retire. It never once crossed my mind that the system I pay my share into monthly would falter or the agreement I entered into when I became a Kentucky teacher would be voided or changed.
- Not collecting social security. I had absolutely no idea that Kentucky teachers were not eligible for social security.
- Teaching until I was 65 with 44 years of complete service. I starting teaching at the age of 21. In order to make it until 65 I will work 44 years before I can retire. If you have ever been in my classroom you know it is a wild and crazy experience. I literally spend my days standing on tables, jumping from chair to chair, laying on the floor and dramatically acting out real world math situations. It is hard to imagine me doing any of those things at 65.
- Being armed at school. I truly had no idea that 13 years ago when I became a teacher that parts of the public would eventually want me to carry a gun at school. I have to keep the safety of my student on my mind daily and I have numerous “plans” on what to do during an active shooter situation but none of them include me being armed.
I have never thought about any of those things to be honest until this year. This year I have had to stand by and watch my profession be ripped apart by my elected officials. I have had to hear that I am unsophisticated, lazy, greedy, misinformed, ignorant, and perhaps worst of all bad at my job. I now have to think about all the things listed above on a daily basis. I have to wonder what will happen to my career and my financial future when my legislators finally reach an agreement. I have to feel like a bargaining chip in a political game rather than a valued and educated professional. Even still, I get up every morning prepared to provide 120 students with the best math education I can. I continue to do the very best I can at my job in spite of what I continue to hear about my profession in the media because:
- All children deserve access to highly qualified educators that are passionate about what they do.
- Although my legislators have no problem turning their back on me, I could never turn my back on the students I represent and serve.
- For many students I (and their other teachers) am the only caring adult they come in contact with on a given day.
- I had inspired, motivated and talented teachers for all 13 years I was a public school student and future generations of Kentuckians deserve the same.
- Whether they realize it now our not, our legislators were once students who also benefited from the hard work and dedication of teachers. Teachers influence the future well beyond the years they teach.
- My heart lies in the classroom.
I am not really sure what the purpose of this post is except to say that I can promise you that teachers are not the monsters that our current Kentucky leaders are making us out to be. We are parents, community members, volunteers, coaches, voters, and of course teachers that truly have the best interest of Kentucky students at heart. We believe that Kentucky kids deserve the most educated, talented and passionate teachers standing in front of their classrooms each day (or in my case on a table!) each day. The only way to achieve that is to ensure that we continue to keep our promised to past, present and future teachers. Teachers have paid not only their financial part into the pension system but also their emotional part by investing in child after child that has come to their classroom. It is time for our elected officials to pay their part.