Tuesday, October 7th, 2014...8:46 pm

Day Old Baked Goods and Respect for Teachers

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There were doughnuts in the teacher work room this morning. And muffins. Slices of cake piled on top of each other. Pieces of pie and a few boxes of cookies.

Bleary-eyed teachers walked in and lit up momentarily – sugar tokens of appreciation.

Except they weren’t.

More than one of us took a doughnut, a guilty pleasure as we stood in the morning copy machine line. We took that doughnut and we lifted it closer and closer to our mouths in anticipation of its sweet reward. Some of us even took a bite. And then we realized the doughnuts were moldy.

These tokens of appreciation? They were baked goods left in the containers past their sell-by dates. They were old. They were garbage, really. And they were moldy.

Suddenly we all wondered where they had come from. How had they gotten here? All these containers of baked goods that could no longer be legally sold in stores? Who had dropped them off here? In our teacher work room? To taunt us as we prepared for our day?

Investigation led most to conclude that someone from the grocery store where they were baked had brought them to us.

Let’s feed the teachers old baked goods, they thought. That will be so nice of us. Who would appreciate moldy doughnuts more than those hard working teachers?

I’m not sure where they came from, really. I actually doubt the store would allow these old foodstuffs to be donated to a school, but what do I know? Maybe they were brought by some well-meaning grocery store employee.

I know that to me, these day old muffins and doughnuts and cakes are a metaphor. A metaphor for how much the public thinks of teachers. Can you imagine anyone donating old food to a law firm? Or a group of investment bankers? No? Neither can I.

But, sadly, I can see someone thinking that teachers would appreciate old food. That we wouldn’t mind just a little bit of mold. Sadly, I can see someone thinking of teachers as a charity group, deserving of these donations because part of our job expectation is to sacrifice our financial security for the good of the future.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time you know that I love my job, that I am, at my core, a teacher. But something about those baked goods got to me today. Something about bringing a moldy donut almost to my mouth made me contemplate my place in society.

Teachers are undervalued. Our paychecks hardly change from year to year. Sure, the starting salary for a teacher is pretty competitive, but when you’ve been at it as long as I have, my monthly check only changes by single digit numbers from year to year. Teachers like me are pushed out of the classroom, enticed by more money if we become principals, burned out by the hours we spend in the classroom and at home, downtrodden by the culture of teacher-blaming, drowning in data that means far less to us than the humans that sit in front of us each day.

This is my 15th year in the classroom. And when people find out how long I’ve been at it they look at me like a rare species – someone whose survived beyond the dreaded 5 year mark, when we lose so many teachers to other careers. At 15 years, I am the senior member of my department. I’m asked more often then not when I’m going to become an administrator. This is part of the problem with the expectations for good teachers today: we are expected to leave the classroom. But here’s the problem: we need good, experienced teachers IN the classroom. We need incentives for good teachers to stay. Part of that incentive should be monetary, but part of it also should be respect. Respect for our work and our pedagogy and our intelligence and our diligence.

We need to be respected enough that no one thinks about bringing us moldy doughnuts.

 

(Make sure to read the next post – the amazing reaction of my students to this post. It’s worth it. I promise!)

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