MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Over time I've learned the futility of trying to interact with people in comment sections on the vast majority of websites. The odds of changing someone's opinion are so very low when the opinions they express are of the Thought Terminating Cliche variety or some subliterate expression of racism. Sometimes I wonder if the people commenting on news sites are even people as opposed to paid astroturfers or spamming software; it is only the doubt that a computer could be programmed to generate anything as stupid as the average Journal-Sentinel Online comment that convinces me of the human touch behind them.

(Seriously, the JSO has the worst comment sections I've ever seen. The three regions in Wisconsin are apparently Milwaukee, Madison, and 1950s Mississippi.)

There are only two comments I ever find myself tempted to make anymore. One is to point out during bitch sessions about lazy employees (usually Union Thugs) that the lard-assed white guys making these comments are most likely at work browsing the internet and posting inane comments on the company dime. The second is to ask people why they have not quit whatever job they have in order to become teachers. Because boy oh boy, to listen to right-wingers tell it, teaching is the sweetest, cushiest, most lucrative racket posing as a career ever devised by man. And part of me always wants to ask these people what keeps them from boarding this mighty gravy train. Summers off! Enormous salaries! Cadillac health care and retirement packages! No real work to do, just glorified babysitting! Ironclad Union Thug protection! Teaching is just a big pot of gold delivered in installments.

Since regional shortages of K-12 teachers are real and demonstrable, there are only two reasons that the average internet commenter / AM Radio Caller would not take advantage of such a sweet deal. One is that they are so professionally successful that even the gold plated deal given to teachers can't hold a candle to their wealth. Since these people are sitting around during business hours posting barely coherent comments on the internet, I will assume that this is not the case for most of them. The second is that they lack the intelligence or attention span required to get a Bachelor's Degree and a teaching certificate.

For a very small percentage of these blowhards there might be a third reason: in the back of their minds they realize exactly how miserable and thankless being a high school teacher is in 2014. They realize while making snide comments about "planning periods" and "summers off" that teaching K-12 is a life of ten-plus hour days, taking work home every night and weekend, surrogate parenting the dozens of students who have effectively no adult guardian, and opening up the newspaper to read about how teachers are Public Enemy #1 in post-Koch Brothers America. All that for a starting salary in most states just north of $30,000 and the incessant interference of every Teabagger and young Earth creationist who manages to talk the local car dealerships into buy him into the state legislature.

Sure, teaching is a blast. And it's super easy as long as you never have to make a lesson plan, grade a stack of 50 poorly executed assignments, listen to screaming parents, talk for six or seven hours per day to an audience that bores almost immediately, and quasi-parent the seven year old who's wearing shorts during a blizzard because his mom disappeared on a bender a couple days ago and he doesn't know where his clothes are. Do all of that without losing your temper, drinking at lunchtime, punching a student (or coworker, or parent), or forgetting that people in the capitol want to tie your salary to your students' grades.

When teaching at the college level feels difficult, my colleagues and I like to remind ourselves that, well, at least we don't teach high school. Our hats tip to the people who do and don't have the luxury of telling a student "You're an adult, I don't care if you do this or not" or seeking cover behind a law that prevents us from dealing with whiny parents. But perhaps I have it all wrong and the life of a middle- or high school teacher is all breaks, handing out worksheets, and sitting on the beach all summer eating bon-bons. I encourage more people who believe this is the case to sign up for the World's Easiest Job and try their hand at it.

40 thoughts on “MISSED OPPORTUNITIES”

  • My father is one such person who thinks teaching is way too easy and way too well rewarded. It is really hard not to point to ask if his GED qualifies him to be an expert in learning.

  • middle seaman says:

    Your frustration should be stretched beyond the bizarre right and the teacher haters. Reading academic blog that entice academic to participate, you realize how unimaginative, mundane and sometime stupid these academics are.

    The stone hard and iron cast knowledge of my own lefties have them pronounce with full conviction that Hillary is evil with potential connect to Satan himself (herself?). They also knew that Obama, deporter of 2 millions and enricher of the filthy rich, is the reincarnation of JFK.

    Sorry, but 90% of blog/tweeter lands is poor arrogant crap.

  • I briefly taught English as a Second Language to adults and that really burned me out. These were adults who wanted to be there and wanted to learn, which is two things the average teacher (K-12 or college) can't count on. The constant interference and micromanagement from the administration and the lousy pay exhausted me (how can you focus on helping others when all you've had to eat that day is a packet of ramen noodles and you're not sure how you're going to pay the electric bill in your crappy rental apartment?). Even after seeing my struggles, my right-wing relatives still forward me chain emails about how teachers live the life of Riley.

  • Undesirable Element says:

    The trouble with your average idiot analyzing the teaching profession is that everyone thinks that he or she is an expert because everyone went to school in the first place. We all watched teachers work for 13 years, so we know what they do.

    Except no one does. I wanted to be a teacher all my life (self -hatred perhaps?), but nothing prepared me for the actual classroom experience. I teach 7th grade English now. So much of the work is behind the scenes. If you're running yourself ragged while the kids are there, you're doing it wrong. Making it look easy takes a tremendous amount of work.

    Adding insult to injury, the kids who do poorly in school and blame teachers for it tend to stay in their hometowns and get elected to school boards. Now they

  • Undesirable Element says:

    Now they dictate policy with a big chip on their shoulder because their failure sure wasn't their fault. Must have been their shitty teachers.

  • That's what always frosted me. If it's so great and pays so well, why aren't those people doing it? I always tho't teaching was like doing stand-up, it's much harder to do well than it ever appears. And every idiot who has told a knock-knock joke thinks they could do it. We have a very republican friend of ours who thru a series of events lost his job and ended up teaching at my wife's school for a short stint. He literally said he tho't all you had to do in teaching was tell the kids things and then they would do it. It's nice to hear him defend teachers now. He figured it rout and, ironically, would be a hell of a teacher if he stayed in it. But it doesn't pay enough.

    I'm forwarding this to all my RW relatives.

  • This is the same principle as Dan Savage's "if being gay is a choice, then choose it now and give me a blow job" – which has the virtues of being crudely offensive to your opponent, as well as unanswerable because we all know all choices are made with the full participation of your conscious mind and with a complete examination of the costs and benefits.

  • Rodger French says:

    I worked for a year as a substitute teacher and it was the most difficult job I've ever had. And though I met a few teachers who clearly didn't give a shit, the vast majority of them were dedicated, hard-working people. In a just world, teachers would be exalted and generously compensated, not used as scape goats by ambitious politicians and indolent commentators.

  • According to the Forbes Misery Index for the unhappiest jobs in America:

    No. 3: Teacher

    Index score: 3.59

    Teachers are least happy with compensation, growth opportunities and the company they work for.

    Game over.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Throughout much of the civilized world, being a teacher is a highly respected profession – almost on the level of doctors, and non-ambulance chasing lawyers (but then, they don't have too many of those, either).

    Here, they have a thankless job, constantly being criticized from every direction.

    Parents who let their kids do whatever they want, instead of their homework, bitch, when their precious special little snowflake doesn't get a good grade.
    And that's IF the parents are there.
    Or care.

    The kids complain to their parents that the teacher's unfair.
    And that's IF the parents are there.
    Or care.

    The school administration is afraid of everyone, and doesn't want antagonize anyone, lest they themselves come under scrutiny, so the hound the teachers with every complaint.

    My parents are from Ukraine and Russia. And when I was a kid – back when we rode dinosaurs like SUV's (great mileage, if you didn't mind shoveling tons of poop) – if there was any issue between me and a teacher, or if I complained about a teacher, THEN I WAS THE ONE WHO WAS WRONG!

    They respected teachers.
    And I did then, and I do even more so now – because their jobs have grown more difficult with every passing decade.

    I commend and thank teachers for doing what they do. At every level – from Pre-K, to Grad School.

    Unfortunately, I don't know what to do to fix the many problems – short of some sort of massive shift in the way parents and grandparents look at education.

    Too many of them look at education as a glorified baby-sitting service, and all they want to hear from the babysitters, is that their precious special little snowflake is the smartest, best behaved child in the known Universe.
    And even if the parents know that their child is an ignorant and nasty little shit, they still want to hear that.

    Because, after all, it can't be they themselves who are to blame that their precious special little snowflake is an ignorant and nasty shit.
    So, their precious special little snowflake must have learned that somewhere else – IN SCHOOL!

    IT'S THE TEACHERS FAULT!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sadly there is a fourth reason as to why the average internet commenter / AM Radio Caller would not take advantage of such a "sweet" deal: they see themselves as "too noble" to become a "leech off the public teet." And as long as they maintain that delusion, you cannot rid them of their shitty views.

  • @Anonymous,

    I think that's the dominant viewpoint among the Idiot Crazies. When my dad (god bless him) goes on a tear about Welfare Queens Living High on the Hog I tell him if he really thinks that, it's in his Enlightened Self-Interest to quit his job, sell the house, squirt out four or five more kids and go be a mooch. He has "standards" though.

  • I taught K12 for 5 years and then 'went to heaven' , teaching University now for more than 30 while remaining in K12 as school board member. I can no longer encourage people to go into K12 because of its whipping boy treatment of teachers for political reasons.

    There will always be a crisis in education, regardless of the actual facts of the job, the progress and successes achieved, and the anecdotal idiocy of the legislators, half of whom in Michigan don't have a college degree and yet make educational policy (Common Core Bad !).

    And few, if any, could diagram the previous sentence.

    My heart goes out to those who continue to make the daily slog so well with such insults.

  • anotherbozo says:

    @Undesirable, you said it nicely.

    I'd only add that the glorious vicious-circle aspect of it plays right into the hands of the plutocracy, who'd like to get rid of public schools altogether. Privatize! Once you do away with taxes that support public schools, and only those who can afford it can get an education, you'll be free of all these moochers, teachers and students alike. The poor can start to work early, those who aren't too lazy, that is. Worked in Charles Dickens' London, after all.

    And the gnoramuses will get their opinions from Rush and Fox TV and vote the way they're told to! Or not vote at all!

    (background music: "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?")

  • I still remember a parent teacher conference when our older son was in elementary school. The teacher started in on a spiel which I could tell was designed to disarm yahoo parents. I interrupted her to say, "Ms. X, I know that you are a capable and highly trained professional, and that what you're about to tell me is the truth about my intelligent, personable but massively underperforming child. Let's get to it together, shall we?"

    She was, shall we say, pleasantly surprised.

  • Having grown up in a place where winter lasts forever made every February "Teacher Suicide Prevention Month". But I loved school as a kid, and teachers made a big difference in my life, so I considered getting my certificate and entering the trenches.

    My high school teachers talked me out of it. Having no choice in curricula or reading lists…not getting to teach history unless you were also a coach…god help you if you mention the role or influence of religion…and a school board filled with ignorant busybodies. "It was different when we started." I took the hint.

  • In the town where I live, a teacher was fired for telling her middle school class that Ellen DeGeneres was brave for coming out of the closet. Ironically, the fact that the teacher was fired proved her correct. :-)

  • This is one of only a handful of sites where I even bother to read the comments. G&S commenters are consistently intelligent and civil. Even some sites I like, the commenters seem to be mostly mouth-breathing trolls.

  • On an even more basic level, I'd bet that teacher resentment is based upon being made to feel dumb during 12 years of schooling.

    And if you actually are comparatively dumb…well, reality bites.

  • I've always maintained you could not pay me enough to be a teacher, so all love and respect (and thanks – these kids are the future of the country!) to those that do.

  • Undesirable Element Says:

    "The trouble with your average idiot analyzing the teaching profession is that everyone thinks that he or she is an expert because everyone went to school in the first place. We all watched teachers work for 13 years, so we know what they do."

    Everybody thinks that they know how to write.
    Everybody thinks that they know how to teach.
    Everybody thinks that they know how to cook (at a professional pace).

  • Buffalo Rude says:

    Lard-assed white guy? Check.

    Spent hours posting inane, offensive, and incoherent comments on the intertubez whilst on corporate America's company dime? Check and check and check.

    Went to school to become a elementary/secondary teacher? Check.

    Became a teacher? Hell fucking no! That shit is hard, if not next to impossible*.

    Ed and any other teachers reading this, you have my utmost respect and admiration.

    *That's why I changed my major, dropped out and became that lard-assed white guy wasting shareholder money arguing whether Bon Jovi should be thrown into the pit of hell, or tortured first, then thrown into the pit of hell on message boards when I should have been getting the proper fax cover sheet on a report that was due long before I joined a flame war on Gawker and after my extended "15 minute" break/chain-smoking bitch session about the fucking morons at corporate HQ that can't make a ham sandwich without calling 4 meetings, assembling 2 committees of disinterested employees, and bringing in outside consultants who cost more money than they paid my entire department in a year. The only good thing about the Great Recession™ for me was that I got laid off from that misery.

  • Great characterization of the three regions of Wisconsin, as they appear from the JSO comments section. I grew numb reading the teacher bashing comments that followed articles about Gov. Walker's union-busting Act 10. Back then several people came up with the term "Wississippi."

    A recent WPR program on the third anniversary of Act 10 featured the current senate majority leader, who said he wished they had paid more attention to the politics during passage of the legislation. I stifled the urge to call in to remind him that the Republicans did a masterful job of riling envy and resentment of teachers, in part by mischaracterizing their compensation.

  • Alan C. – "This is one of only a handful of sites where I even bother to read the comments…"

    This is one of two where I read the comments. The other is Charles Pierce at Esquire's politics blog.

    Comments here and at the politics blog at Esquire renew my optimism that humans are capable of rational thought.

  • There's a petition making the rounds in Missouri for a ballot initiative to outlaw tenure. As if teaching wasn't bad enough already. Details here:
    dianeravitch.net/2014/01/04/missouri-billionaire-donates-750000-to-end-teacher-tenure/

  • Having just finished my M.A.T. and treading water subbing till the next school year, I would just like to take a little bit of issue with the idea that teaching high school/middle school is burn out city. When I first started grad school my end game was eventually go PhD and teach at Uni level. Now I feel like high school/ middle school is possibly the more important for my priorities because that is when kids need to be reached that should not be going to college. I teach in a poor rural county. Many of these kids' parents didn't finish high school and they don't get the reinforcement that education is important.

    But with all of the skilled labor jobs (plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc.) that cannot fill out these kids would be happier, and debt free if we could allow them to apprentice and learn basic business skills. They still need art and music and all the academics because IMO all knowledge is connected. Learning in one area can help us learn in others. But many kids would be happier and more productive (things that build on each other btw) if they could go to a technical school or the military and into the "real world" that much sooner.

    Teaching middle school and high school is no picnic but it is very rewarding too. Sure it would be nice if they all minded like the Korean kids I taught in SK but that ain't gonna happen.

    So while I fully understand the resentment most of the comments here express. I don't like being attacked by people that don't know what they're talking about either. But sometimes I think we go too far in talking about how hard and emotionally draining it is. I think it's easy to fall into playing that up, "We teachers are a special breed that you Philistines cannot comprehend!" We're individuals too. There are some stinkers out there teaching and the Unions don't always act in our interest. It's a big corporate organization too after all. Of course all the BS is a pain, but that time in the classroom with the kids, as maddening as they can be, makes it all worth it.

    Then again, maybe I'm too new to it to be jaded yet.

  • anotherbozo says:

    @P.C. Bowen: it may be too late in the game for this thread to get attention but you get my Teaching Wisdom Award before you've even really begun. (If Obama justifiably got a Nobel when he did, yours is not premature) I'm a retired college prof and think your values are not only in the right place but deserve a bigger forum to influence others. Something tells me you'll find one. Meanwhile godspeed!

  • Child of two public school teachers here. My sister is also a teacher. (I teach too, but at the graduate level.)

    The problem with the "if you think it's so cushy, you go do it!" response is that there's always an excuse. "I wouldn't suck off the public teat," as noted above, is one. Another popular one, leveled mostly by those bitching about how good public employees have it, is "oh I would never get hired, because it's all about who you know." What's that you say, you believe getting a cushy public job requires getting out into the community, getting active in your local or state government, scratching people's backs, volunteering for polititians and carrying water for their pet causes so they can set you up? You're saying… that's too much WORK? Why how lazy must you be!

    Of course then the goalposts move again and you start hearing mutterings that boil down to "well I'm not the right 'type,' all those jobs go to minorities" when you strip away the pretense. And there you have the heart of resentment against teachers, public employees, and other union workers: they give good paying jobs to "blah people" rather than allowing white people to dominate as is their god-given right.

  • Yeah… Everyone has pretty much summed up my thoughts already, but here's there short version of my story:

    > B.S. and M.S in various engineering fields
    > Worked for a couple years designing widgets for a gubmint contractor
    > Wanted to do something with a greater social impact
    > Went back to school for an M.A.T.
    > Started student teaching at a high school in one of the more dysfunctional districts in Michigan
    > All of the above teaching hardships, plus got verbally abused by students every day, and on one particularly special day, got a black eye from being punched by a student while trying to prevent a fight from starting
    > "Shit's hard yo and I'm depressed all the time!"
    > Quit my program, going back to engineering because it's waaaaay easier and so much less upsetting
    > Going to get involved as a robotics mentor and perhaps other after school / summer programs that don't require prep and simultaneous management of 35 students.

    Maybe one day I'll be able to make friends with people in the engineering world who have money to spend philanthropically and be able to encourage them to spend it in ways that will ameliorate some of the bigger problems I witnessed during my teaching stint.

  • ZeroInMyOnes says:

    Interesting how our right wing politicians and their media bretheren started demonizing and urging cut-backs to teachers just as minorities were making real inroads to the profession…

    And the comments on my own state news website are a dull-witted mess as well. In fact, I admit to going days in ignorance of local news just because I might be tempted to start reading comments. And that would undermine my faith in my fellow man.

  • This made me laugh out loud.

    "(Seriously, the JSO has the worst comment sections I've ever seen. The three regions in Wisconsin are apparently Milwaukee, Madison, and 1950s Mississippi.)"

    It's not so different, I don't think, in much of the country still. There is Portland, Eugene and, seemingly, the rest of Oregon. Here in Washington we have the People's Republic of Seattle and the rest of the state (with lightly populated Jefferson and San Juan Counties with us). Then what must be the biggest divide of all – NYC and the rest of the state.

  • Los Marathons says:

    I knew it was my lucky day when, after following your link to JSO, I was treated with the top-running headline "Fulfilling brunch menu satisfies at Blue Jacket".

  • yep, bankers contracts are sacred, teachers not so much. Remember Newton? it wasn't bankers putting their bodies between a lunatic with an automatic weapon and innocent children. sigh.

  • Now instead of chasing after 'prospects' you attract them instead.
    You – Tube is the most popular video sharing site, but there are plenty of others too.
    Plus the event gives you the opportunity to extend
    an invitation to continue with what the audience has learned by working
    with you directly.

Comments are closed.