“Teachers Have Cushy Jobs,” Why Teaching Is Becoming a Joyless Job, Attacks on Teachers and Unions are Counterproductive.


Teaching has become a joyless job.
Fox, talking heads and bloggers delight in attacking teachers and their unions. After all teachers have inflated pensions, cadillac health plans, life time jobs protected by tenure and seniority, and three months off … a cushy job. States and localities face staggering deficits and default, all because of the avaricious “Our Miss Brooks.”
I met a Teaching Fellow, a former Chief Financial Officer in a major corporation. He was in his fifties, always wanted to be a teacher. He was teaching ninth grade math classes in a small high school. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted, I’ve always succeeded, no matter the complexity of the problem, I don’t know whether I can master teaching these kids.”
Teaching is at times frustrating, at times immensely gratifying, and, always a complex and difficult task.
New teachers are not treading water, too often they’re ten feet under the surface watching the bubbles. They’re drowning.  If they’re lucky a school leader and/or a colleague can throw them a lifeline. About a third drop out in the first few years. Maybe they aren’t cut out to be teachers, maybe they give up too early.
Teachers improve as they gain experience, some peak after a few years and others continue to grow and expand their skills. A few become master teachers, other become specialists:
I asked a principal. “Who is your most valuable teacher?”
He didn’t even have to think, “Jeff.”
I was surprised, “He runs lunch duty.”
“1500 kids over three periods, totally orderly, if  Jeff ever left this school it would be anarchy, he’s masterful.”
The art of leadership is placing each teacher in the proper job so that they can be successful. Who teaches with whom, who teaches which grade, creating a community of practitioners.
States and school districts increasingly plan to measure teachers by “student progress,” utilizing a dense, impenetrable formula.
The Value-Added Modeling (VAM) project results are at variance with what principals see every day (see NY Times article here). 
In spite of the regression analysis tools teachers teaching “challenging” classes receive lower scores. Principals are baffled. The scores don’t correlate with the realities that they see every day yet they’re told they are a vital metric in determining tenure.
Teachers don’t want to teach the fourth or fifth grade, the testing grades. They are confused about a  “score” that may determine tenure, evaluation, and, who knows, perhaps raises, or, their very jobs.
No one seems to be interested in how much teachers cherish and worry about the kids they teach and counsel and sometimes surrogate parent.
“Her coat was threadbare and she came to school shivering every day, I gave her a warm coat, from Santa.”
“I found a real bargain on mittens, I bought a pair for every kid in my class, told them I met Santa.”
These are not the “exceptions,” it’s what teachers do, someone has to.
For Governor Christie, the tea-partiers, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk teachers are greedy, self serving union members dragging down America.
It’s becoming a joyless job.
If it wasn’t for the kids Johnny Paycheck might be right!

Well that foreman he’s a riggity dog
The lineboss He’s a fool
Got brand new flattop hair cut
looorrdd he thinks he’s cool
One of these days I’ll blow my top
And That Sucker he’s gonna pay
lord I can’t wait to see their faces
When I get the nerve to say
take this job and shove it,
I don’t work here anymore.



10 responses to ““Teachers Have Cushy Jobs,” Why Teaching Is Becoming a Joyless Job, Attacks on Teachers and Unions are Counterproductive.

  1. Exactly right. Please continue until the right people hear you and take it to heart. Talk to the kids – they’ll tell you the real story. And put all these naysayers in the classrooms for six months.


  2. Retired- No More Public Enemy No. 1

    Sorry to report that the only “use” society has for teachers is to mobilize mass purchasing of school supplies to support the office supply megastores, and to babysit for the masses who keep on having unwanted children.

    Children who are wanted and loved are a wonderful blessing when raised by caring, loving parents and then educated by professional teachers. Then, as a resource or adjunct to help a caring, loving family raise its children.

    The most vociferous critics of teachers (those who can, do, those who can’t, teach) left out the most important part- those who can’t teach, teach teachers.

    Only a society of fools would have doctors monitored by mechanics, lawyers supervised by barbers, and shoemakers setting priorities in the world of publishing.

    The same fools willingly allow the super-rich to put overpaid corporate robber barons in charge of teachers. After all, they tell us, what could a mere teacher POSSIBLY know about teaching or children?

    Every morning I am thankful that my children saw what was going on, and chose not to work in the thankless limbo of perpetual scorn, shame, and insecurity offered to an award-winning teacher parent.

    Teaching nowadays has nothing to do with loving children, knowing subject matter, caring for kids as human beings, and earnestly wanting to do a good job. Teaching has become a tense and dark world where children are stressed to pass more exams (and faster, please!) and where teachers dread being denied their careers by business managers who rate teachers according to the vagaries of test performance by children.

    Woe unto the next generation- who indeed would be willing to teach?


  3. It still is half a year job with incredible pensions, healthcare,free eyeglasses,free hearing aids, medicare reimbursement,staggering salaries especially for those 90 day, under 30 , “principals” who talk their way in to 200-300 pupil schools with their promises of turning out super achieving students .$130,000 annual salary for supervising 2-300 kids!!!!!

    Blooomberg has bankrupted the city by hiring 1600 principals costing $2.0800000 a year.


  4. Dr. J. Fleitman

    Federico’s comments about the benefits and salaries that are received by both teachers (and principals) need some corrections. Teaching is not a “half-year job with incredible pensions, heathcare, free eyeglasses…and staggering salaries,” etc. The health and welfare benefits that NYC teachers receive were the result of many years of “tooth and nail” bargaining between the UFT and the City of New York. With every new contract, there seems to be the same game of “tug of war” when the city’s DOE wants the UFT membership to” give back” those items
    which have previously been agreed and ratified by both parties.
    The other issues that Frederico raises concerning “90 day, under 30 “principals” (his quotes), may raise some important and unresolved issues about the DOE’s current methods of training and supervising new administrators in the schools; however, those items are not within the direct purview of the UFT and its membership. Although his concerns about what he has called, “90 day, under 30 “principals,” may be legitimate and need some major changes, Federico should understand that the UFT cannot nor should not be directly concerned with this issue as part of its contractual negotiations. As he may well know, the UFT provides its membership with chapter leaders and district representatives who are already inundated with those grievances that invariably arise in their school districts.


  5. The vast majority of teachers at my school are extremely knowledgeable, hard working, and caring individuals. We are stressed to the maximum and all accountability falls in our laps. The students are likewise stressed running around huge buildings, facing standardized tests in order to graduate. Every “prep” period is filled with clerical work, phone calls to parents, meetings after more meetings. Many come home to the cares and chores of running a home and raising children. We work until late in the evening on our lessons, grading papers, checking homework and planning only to do it all over again. The work continues on Sundays in order to get prepared for the next week. In the classroom, the children sleep, don’t do homework, rarely study their lessons and can be very disruptive and disrespectful.
    Nevertheless, they are promoted to the next level- the euphemism used is “scholarship”, “statistics”, “cohorts”. This means “pass them anyway” or we will be called into the principal’s office and asked why they didn’t pass. Even if they fail the course, they are moved up and ahead ill prepared for the next course. Teachers are accountable and criticized in the public forum. The students and their parents are never held accountable. The administrators pile on more work, change curriculum, programs, and textbooks regularly. Each year there is a new gimmick that we must master, changing all our previous year’s work to incorporate the new fad. We are driven crazy from the top on down and from the bottom upwards. It’s a wonder I have been a teacher since 1977. In spite of everything, the one child that turns himself/herself around, the glow in the eyes and the smile on the face that show understanding when there was none before, that magical moment every once in a while when a child says thank you for all you do- these are the things that keep us going. Our new chancellor needs to understand these things and needs to respect what we do every day, every year. Give us the support we need and the tools to succeed and let us use our own brains, hearts, and creativity to do the rest.


  6. What I want to know is, WTF is the UFT doing??? Does Bloombucks have them in his pocket too? Sure seems like it. I’m so tired of being shit on by people who know nothing about teaching. I can’t take it anymore. I do my job quite well, but it doesn’t seem to matter.


  7. A teacher’s job is not cushy. My wife is a teacher and she works at home in the evening and weekends. She goes to the school early and stays late and the administration does not appreciate it. They are heartless. That is the new reality. UFT Mike must deal with this. The enemy is the Mayor and he doesn’t play fair.


  8. My frustration is that it’s not just Rush Limbaugh and Chris Christie, but Arne Duncan and Barack Obama. They may not use the same inflammatory rhetoric, but their policies create the same climate and share the same goals.


    • Thank you, I am tired of my socialist colleagues constantly disparaging those of us in the teaching profession that are part of the conservative movement. Liberal doctrine is what has moved us into our current situation. Our union and the Mayor need to act rationally. We need to do what is best for the students and to improve our present economic problems by cutting the budget. The fact is that we waste way too much money which is typical when government runs anything! I have been a teacher for 28 years. I still get so much energy and joy from teaching, despite the current administration. All of us need to be held accountable, that includes, government, administration, teachers, parents and students, for what we do or don’t do. By the way, liberals need to stop blaming everyone else, especially the conservative media, for our problems and take a look at themselves.


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