*Turns on Das Interwebs* “Gee I wonder what I’ve missed these past few days what with nursing this muscle spasm and generally not being hunched over my phone or computer?”
*Sees myriad expected posts about gun control/ 2nd Amendment rights in response to latest school massacre* “Ok yeah, that all seems par for the course…” *Sees ranting about my rights, fighting the guv’mint, tyranny, slippery slopes* “Yes, yes, heard all this before, yeah..” *Sees waves of political cartoons about the sanctity of life, the madness of American gun culture* “This would be the standard response per usual…” *Sees quite a few posts about teachers talking about being uncomfortable laying down their lives for their kids* “Well, that’s unusual,but I understand…” *posts about arming teachers, arming the kids, having roving packs of concerned armed unemployed dads carrying semi-automatic weapons on school grounds at all times* “That all seems like madness…”
*Sees rant by paramedic about how all teachers need to functionally have the same training as army medics and be capable of field surgery/ triage*
“OK, STOP RIGHT FUCKING THERE.”
Hi! My name is Matt,and I used to be a teacher. You’d think from the way this post started I might be talking about mass shootings, or school shootings, or something pithy about American gun culture backed up by statistics that some of you are going to nod your head along to and others will claim as irrelevant due to … due to something…
For the most part, its not. For one thing, I’m tired of the argument in general, and I’m tired of arguing with people who believe that guns are the single most important thing in the world and I realize until the belief that the lives of children matter over hard metal mechanisms of death-ejaculation is held by people making the rules, I just can’t do a damn thing about it. That’s a rant for a darker, drunker time, and one I just don’t have the energy for.
SO yeah, I used to be a highschool teacher here in Texas. I’m not anymore. The initial decision regarding this state of being was not my own, however the choice for that to remain “past tense” is now my own, for a variety of reasons that I am about to expound upon like goddamn Cato arguing for the destruction of Carthage.
Let me start by saying that I still regard teaching as the most noble profession. Friends and family and former colleagues who may read this, I want you to know I am in no way putting down what you do. You all do good, hard, often thankless work. In fact, if gratitude had some sort of negative unit that we could use as currency, anyone who has ever taught could fund Drake’s most recent music video. I’m not even particularly bitter over my treatment in the field of Education anymore, despite knowing that if I had started my career anywhere but Roosevelt High School I maybe could have had a chance at lasting longer. Despite my best efforts to find a new teaching position in the past six years, it just hasn’t happened. Recent developments in my life have actually led me to believe that this is a good thing for me.
As of right now, I am no longer considering employment in the public education system of the State of Texas, because on a personal level it no longer makes any sense to. The first reason for that is TRS, or the Teacher Retirement System (of Texas). TRS is what public school teachers get in place of Social Security. What is that you ask? In place of? Yes. Teachers in the state of Texas do not get the benefit of a company (or school) funded pension or retirement plan AND their Social Security. They get one or the other. Keep in mind, they pay in to both, with Social Security of course not being a choice. In fact, teachers in Texas cannot even collect their spouses social security. If they choose TRS its TRS and nothing but, plus whatever they might manage to put away in their own Roth IRA and others savings over the years. Which, speaking of, they’re funding out of a $60,000 a year salary, and most only make that by the end of a forty year career. You are also only fully able to access benefits after gaining so many credits ( 1 credit = year teaching). I started paying into TRS in late 2007, stopped in mid 2012. If I started again now I’d have a six year gap to make up for. Sure there is the option to “buy credits”, but again- I’d only be making $60,000 a year here. Plus probably a few thousand a year of that are gonna go to school supplies my district can’t afford that I gotta pay for myself that I no longer get to write off on my taxes. Pending retirement age is looking like age 75, and that’s only if the heart attack or inevitable alcoholism or Alex Jones fueled nut-job with an AR-15 doesn’t get to me first.
It has taken a while but I’m now making close to what I was making as a third year teacher. With better health benefits, more discretionary time off, better bonuses and actual performance based incentives that rely on my performance, not based on if the raging bag of hormone fueled rage in my sixth period can identify the Yangtze River on a standardized test. While we are talking about time off…
My time outside of work is now my time. I get to leave work at the door. I don’t spend my evenings grading papers, entering said grades, figuring out a curve, building lesson plans and powerpoint presentations. I’m not required to stay late for tutoring, show up early for meetings, or show mandatory school spirit on weekends when I should be grading papers, building lesson plans and powerpoint presentations. Before anyone even breaths a word about having summers off, may I remind you that I live in Texas, and more time to subject myself to the rage of the furious burning sky orb is overrated. Teachers don’t have as much time off as you think anyway. Sure the kids are out of school the first week in June. Teachers are there for another week or so finalizing grades, turning in equipment, breaking down classrooms, moving classrooms, setting up Graduation ceremonies and so on. There is also likely another couple weeks of mandatory trainings, going to out of pocket conferences so you can keep your certification current, teaching summer school because somebody has too, and then coming back the first or second week of August to set up classrooms, attend new year orientation and so on. Actual time off in the summer is really about six weeks, and could be as little as no weeks.
Of course one false step and any teacher could have the possibility of unlimited time off. Unpaid. The being said, there are a lot who fall into this category who deserve it. Teachers are people, and by that I mean some are fucking monsters. There are teachers who abuse the kids verbally and physically. There are teachers who engage in wildly inappropriate (re: statutory rape) relationships with their students. There are teachers who falsify test date to make themselves look better and end up getting caught (though on this last count it can be really hard to blame them). There are also situations where even the merest perception of anything of these things can result in termination, sight unseen. I knew a wonderful social studies teacher who got canned for bringing in an article that painted American Conservatives in a negative light. The lesson, by the way, was about media bias. Teaching has one of the worst rates of job security in the world, and that is even without the rampant budget cuts that occur year after year mean the school has to cut your position to afford the football budget.. Then figure in that you’ll never know when a crazed loner decides to target your classroom to “teach them all a lesson” or White Rights McBumble-Fuck puts two+Fox+internet together to realize your school is the local headquarters of the secret Jewish-Illuminati Nubian Lizard Antifa Resistance…
Which brings me back to my semi-rant at the beginning of this post. There were moments where I absolutely loved teaching. I have kept in contact with enough of my former students to realize I really did some good and in some ways it breaks my heart to have finally come to this realization that public school teaching and I have had our moment. I’m really not that keen on dying for your kids either. Sorry, but I’m just not, and you cannot ask that of me or any other teacher. It’s not in the job description. It’s not something that gets brought up in anyway when you are getting your certificate, signing your contract, and going through new teacher orientation. No principal chuckles after shaking your hand and says, “Just so you know, you’re expected to be a human shield at a moments notice.” It is certainly not compensated for on a monetary level. Teaching is the only public service profession where dying on the job is an increasing possibility but nobody gives a shit that it is. Cops, soldiers, firefighters, paramedics, hell even a NASCAR driver can die doing what they do in the course of their job and its considered a tragedy. Further more, when they do die, things happen to make sure they don’t in the future. Not so with teachers. When teachers and students die, they get a single police officer on campus. They get to run drills that will not ensure that people won’t die, just ensure that less die, or they die at a slower pace so the madman can be stopped.
When I opened up Facebook this weekend, I saw some very heartbreaking accounts of children going through these drills, of teachers breaking down and realizing not only do they not want to step in front of a hail of bullets, but shouldn’t have to. Many of these were from people I know, not just reposts of reposts of reposts. I saw asinine arguments for funding of putting a Glock in the hand of every teacher, despite there not being enough money in Oklahoma to have a five day school week. I saw truly idiotic responses to parents concerned for their child’s safety telling them to arm their kindergartners so they can shoot back. Finally, I saw the post I mentioned several exasperated paragraphs ago on how more deaths could be prevented if, in addition to pedagogy, subject content, leadership skills, classroom management, crisis de-escalation and empathy and respect for each individual student ( and their sorry ass parents), each individual teacher should also be able to render paramedic level aid. That’s a lot of value your taxes are getting for an overpaid $45,000 a year salaried teacher, who could be axed at any time without warning. Or shot as the case may be.
So to those who advocate for the arming of teachers or students. To those of you who want teachers to add one more duty to their overpiled plates. And especially to anyone who has ever said “those of can’t do, teach.” Fuck the lot of you. I hope you enjoy homeschooling your kids. Because you don’t deserve your kid’s teacher. Your kid’s teacher certainly deserves better than you.
Sincerely, a former teacher.
P.S. – Arming the teachers is probably the best way to ensure more guns deaths in schools. Come May all teachers become unwilling Avatars of Death, yearning only for Her Embrace or to mete it out to others.
P.P.S. I’m joking. Kinda.
Random addendum: I’m really looking forward to never being asked why I stopped teaching, ever again. Mainly because that question is immediately followed up by that same person saying, “ I never could. I’d beat the crap out of a kid on my first day.” Did you not just answer your own question???