Recently I've been doing a lot of thinking about my job. Most of you know I'm a teacher. I've been wondering when it will get to the point when it is no longer worth it to me to be stressed all the time except for two months in the summer. It's funny when you talk to people about it. They say things like "Well, people in the private sector aren't getting raises either" or "It's tough all over" or "Health benefits are being cut for everyone" or "Be lucky you have a job and a paycheck." I do think about all of those things and realize I am lucky to be employed, but I wonder if everyone realizes the toll that is taken on teachers all the time--especially at a time of national budget crises.
This is what I mean by the toll: what other job does not give you the freedom to go to the bathroom whenever you need to? That may sound funny, but those of you who are in classrooms know what I mean. You can't leave 20 third graders unsupervised so that you can go pee! And try scheduling a doctor's appointment. You can't leave your job for an hour or two just to do that--you would have to take at least a half day off and write sub plans just so you can take care of your health. Go out to lunch? Hahaha!! We get 25 minutes to eat in the school cafeteria surrounded by noisy kids.
I haven't had a raise in years. Not even a small cost of living increase. And we all know that gas prices and food prices have dramatically increased. A friend of mine who is a teacher actually qualified to participate in the free/reduced lunch program for her children. Okay, I know a lot of people haven't had raises in a while either. But what about those bonuses people receive? We don't get that. And business travel. Several people I know travel for business and then get to use their frequent flier miles for personal trips.
So what about all the perks of being a teacher? Oh yeah, those summers off. That is a very nice benefit. Contrary to popular belief, though, we don't get paid during the summer. We can choose to have our annual salary divided into 12 installments, but we have already worked for that money. Cushy hours? I don't think so. My required hours are 7:15 - 2:45. I know that is only 7.5 hours, but in reality most teachers I know come in early, stay late, or both. And remember, we have no breaks during the day and no leisurely lunch hour either. I make it a habit of checking my week's hours when I clock out on Fridays (yes, we have to punch a time clock), and it is always more than 40 hours. Plus considering the time I work at home during the evenings and on the weekends--well, you get the picture.
It's really getting old. And I don't see signs that it is going to get better any time soon. But as everyone says, "You do it for the kids." That is true . . . but I wonder how long that "doing it for the kids" is going to outweigh the cost of being a teacher.