why you should never be a teacher

May 5th, 2007


Me, teaching. Hi.

I just read this post entitled “10 Tough Things About Being a Teacher“. It’s an accurate set of genuinely tough things, no doubt. It also has a glib, “hang-in-there-kitty” final conclusion that precisely describes the line of thinking that drove me out of teaching for good.

This last year, I worked as a public high school teacher teaching various classes in computer science, and I lasted for a whopping half a year. I started fully motivated, and ended up incredibly depressed. The money was dismal, and the conditions demoralizing and obscene. The technology was outdated and poorly maintained. I couldn’t take it. I fled mid-year to a job in the private sector where the workload is less, and the pay far better. I miss the kids, but I couldn’t justify living a personally miserable life for the tangential benefit of a couple hundred students.

I suspect these conditions will continue until teachers stop publicly extolling how virtuous and soulful it is to work under these shameful conditions and how this proves that “it’s not about the money”; as if there’s something wrong with taking a job for money just because children are involved. No one ever says they haul trash for the inherent love of trash, so why are teachers expected to teach for the love of teaching? More importantly, why do teachers repeat this fallacy in robotic unison?

The teachers’ unions that promote these mediocrities need to be burned to the fucking ground. They have traded every benefit a teacher could possibly hope for in exchange for the elusive promise of tenure, thus assuring their members a long, painful slog of a career with an enthusiasm trajectory inherently trending downward. In our current public school system, there is no reason any reasonably intelligent person would want to be a teacher, and until conditions improve, it is a career path to be shunned and avoided.

~jeff

11 Responses to “why you should never be a teacher”

  1. cubeXpert says:

    In our current public school system, there is no reason any reasonably intelligent person would want to be a teacher, and until conditions improve, it is a career path to be shunned and avoided.” – ldopa.net » archive » why you should never be a teacher

  2. Carrie says:

    I cannot think of any nurturing work that has been traditionally performed by women that does not have exactly these problems.

  3. story says:

    I understand. I guess my point was less about the virtue and worthiness and more about the personal value I drew from it. Maybe it’s my ego, maybe it’s something else, but when I get a thank you like that from a kid, or when I see someone achieve because of me . . . it really does provide enough value and utility to make me want to keep doing it. I’ve had paper pushing jobs that were 1000 times easier, but left me at the end of the day thinking “Really, what’s the point?”

    Sorry if you think that I’m worsening the condition of all teachers by feeling that way.

  4. Jeff says:

    God bless you if you can stand it, but I’ve really grown fond of dental care; not that I didn’t enjoy picking and choosing which teeth were to be “my favorite” under my remarkably shitty teacher’s dental plan.

    ~jeff

  5. story says:

    I’m so sorry you’ve had such a bad experience and become so embittered. Not all public schools are like that, and not all unions are the same. I’ve worked places where the unions fought like mad and there was always a battle, but man did we have good pay and benefit. I’ve also worked places where the union was chummy with administration, and then not so much.

    I guess I’ve always had good enough pay and good enough benefits. I guess I can understand why you would need to leave the career if you weren’t able to get by.

  6. Jeff says:

    I don’t mean to be nosy, but isn’t the top post on your blog right now about how you’re $100K in debt, work an extra job, and can’t afford a house? That doesn’t sound like Good Enough Pay to me.

    I’m not embittered. I loved my students to death. Leaving was gut wrenching and heartbreaking. But: I’m realistic, and a system that rewards its workers so very poorly and yet asks them to work so very very hard is an insult, and a mean one at that, because they’re hiding their stinginess behind children.

  7. story says:

    I guess you just have to define enough. I don’t make enough to get very far ahead on my debt right now, particularly while my husband is a grad student earning a minimal stipend. However, I do make enough to live comfortably, and I make the CHOICE to work an extra job (which, truthfully, is also a job I enjoy) because it helps me to make progress and get ahead on my debt.

    I took a severe paycut when I moved here (more than $12,000 worth); as I said above there are teachers’ unions and then there are teachers’ unions. That has affected my financial situation, but it doesn’t affect my desire to teach.

    I agree with your fundamental point, that teachers deserve more than what they get. I also think that professional athletes deserve less than what they get. I’m not insulted by that, but I do believe in adovcating for change. I think that getting on your blog and saying that no one should teach, however, is perhaps not the most productive use of your voice. Personally, I’m going to use my voice to keep teaching, and trust that if I’m doing my job, things will fall out as they should.

  8. cauley says:

    This has been an enlightening exchange. Thanks, Story– and Jeff– for sharing your views. Story, the fact that your financial situation, dire as it is, doesn’t affect your desire to teach is admirable, to say the least. What that there were more like you out there!

  9. lostpoem says:

    I have worked in the counseling/student activities/family outreach center at my junior high school for the past 5 years, and I have seen everything you discuss in this post. I am also taking the CSET today to begin getting credentialed as an English teacher, so does that tell you how much I learned over the past 5 years? Actually, I feel that the conditions *are* deplorable, and our District in particular is somewhat stagnant, but even more than that I am selfish. I *love* being there with my students, and I *love* getting more time with them in classrooms. I cannot WAIT to have my own room, a class that I can have for an entire semester, an entire year… and hey, if I decide that eventually I can’t hack it, then I can go into the field as an advocate for changing the public schools in our area, and be able to be taken more seriously as a speaker because of my experiences. Either way, it will be an experience I will treasure. (PS– You think teaching is hard? Try being a counselor in my school, where kids are living in a high-poverty, high crime neighborhood polluted with drug abuse (esp. meth), half of parents in prison/jail, major gang factions battling it out constantly (at least one shooting in front of school each year), high rates of sexual abuse in the home, and at least 2-3 pregnant 13-year-olds every year… It can be a tad overwhelming.)

  10. Stephen says:

    Hi, you make some great points and then you blame the teachers unions for this attitude (wtf?). I am sure there is some experience that informs this view, but it is hardly the unions that have decided that teachers should be expected to be highly educated and highly underpaid. The reason for the low pay is that in this country teaching was a historical pink collar job. It was expected that women were teachers and therefor etheir husbands would be the breadwinners.

    Again, your school sounds deranged if you think most teachers think thought the money was fine and that the love of teaching should make up for that. Teacher salaries are offensively low, but there is no way they are going up anytime soon. My wife was the union rep at her last school and a negotiator and this was the very point they were trying to dive home with the administration: teachers are professionals. They should be treated as professionals. This means competitive salaries, their own computers, etc.

  11. Stephen says:

    Furth, google readers of these comments: the original post aside, it is not the UNION’s fault that teachers get paid crap. The free market as chosen a lower wage (private school teachers usually make less) than the ones the unions negotiated. Teachers make low salaries because there is no political will to pay them more, because it would be very expensive. At the end of the day the voters would rather complain about the union and how teachers are not accountable enough. The solution politicians come up with is always a variation on making it easier to punish schools and teachers, rather that reward high performers. If you want to improve teaching, pay around twice as much. At this low pay you are either doing it for the love of it (some) or because you wouldn’t do better in the private sector (most).