Op-Ed: Teachers, Underpaid and under-appreciated

Given the current economic climate and impending budget cuts that are happening in schools all over the country, it seems like it is time to re-evaluate our priorities.

Due to the sequestration that began on March 1, it seems like the topic of funding for Washington State Public Schools is more relevant than ever before.

I’ll admit my bias from a start; I’ve grown up around the education business and have literally been surrounded by a family full of teachers my whole life.

My dad and step-dad have been elementary school teachers for 20-something years, my mom has been a Seattle Public Schools employee for at least ten years, and my step-mom has also been a teacher in the special education field for a number of years as well.

One individual that has been influential in my upbringing is a teacher in Seattle as well and has spent his whole life trying to help kids learn through more interactive and personal methods than the traditional public school model.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that other professions aren’t as influential or notable in society, or that they deserve to have their funding cut. But it just seems to me as if teachers are such an invaluable resource and their efforts go un-noticed.

I can’t tell you the number of times my family members have stayed after the bell rings at school just to talk to students or parents.

Many teachers spend countless hours preparing their classrooms for the new school year, or meeting with kids one-on-one who need a little more individual attention. And it is those little things that often make a monumental difference in a child’s life.

This issue goes beyond just the extra time and money teachers invest in their kids. Some of the best teachers I know become so invested in their students’ success that the line between work and home life becomes blurry.

The compassion fatigue phenomenon that has started to become more prevalent and recognizable is something that affects many teachers and goes untreated. This “burn-out” seems to happen when teachers care so much about their student that their empathy becomes a curse rather than a gift.

There is a teacher I know who had to take a sabbatical year before her 30th birthday because she was so drained from how much time and energy she spent helping her kids.

And the fact is that I’m sure this is not a stand-alone case; there are teachers all the time who care so much about their student’s success that it starts to take a toll on their own lives. They start to feel personally responsible for making sure that their students succeed.

A teacher’s job becomes their life and they take it home with them every day. No matter how much they might want to separate their life at school from their home life, the two become inevitably intertwined.

And more often than not, the first thing to go when our state gets in an economic bind is funding for schools. This means that programs that are essential to children’s education can be gone in seconds. It means more teachers are going to get laid off, and salaries are going to get cut.

It also means that college graduates looking for jobs in the education field are going to have an even harder time getting into the business.

One of the most talented young teachers I had in high school was a recent graduate from Seattle University. And even though he was brilliant, passionate, and great at his job, he was consistently laid off each year because he didn’t have enough experience to merit job security.

Now this is not me advocating to get rid of the job protection for teachers who have been in education their whole lives. I am simply stating that for those who think that this sequestration has nothing to do with college students are sadly mistaken.

It will affect everyone eventually and if we don’t start to rethink our state’s priorities and stand up for teachers, then some of the most influential people in society are going to pay the biggest price.



Categories: Opinion

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  2. Op-ed: Teachers, underpaid and under-appreciated | cassady coulter

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