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Jeff Ward: I'm Stunned at What Teachers Have to Put Up With, for Very Little Pay

I just don't understand all the animosity directed at teachers these days!

I still don’t get it! I lamented the fact that teachers, school bus drivers, daycare workers and the folks with whom we charge our children in general don’t get paid nearly enough for their excellent efforts.

Though I haven’t really tackled the teacher topic directly (until now), in addition to the dismissive comments coming out of that column, it would seem that whenever the subject of educators arises, the educators always come out on the short end of the stick.

Trust me, I can clearly recall all of Sister Camilla’s shouting, and I still have those deep yardstick imprints on my back, but that single, bad Catholic-school experience hasn’t soured my attitude toward teachers. In fact, I’m still friends with some of those St. Nick’s nuns.

So unless the theory that "one bad apple spoils the whole bunch" (The Osmonds, December 1970 ... see ) holds true, I don’t understand the prevailing animosity so frequently directed at teachers these days.

But rather than attack it from a fiscal vantage point yet again, I’m going to take a more personal tack this time. You see, my wife has been a full-time student teacher for the past month and, having seen it firsthand, I’m stunned with what teachers have to put up with for less money than a starting truck driver or a McDonald's manager makes.

I already know what you’re thinking! “C’mon Jeff! You’re only defending teachers because your wife is about to become one! Isn’t 'disingenuous' one of your favorite words?”

Of course, my response to that one dear reader is I wrote a rousing defense of our dogged educators for The Beacon-News five years ago—long before my wife even considered a career change—and I haven’t changed my stance since.

To be perfectly honest, I think she’s nuts, but that’s probably a tautology when you consider that she’s been married to me for 20 long years. If two decades of that kind of wedded bliss haven’t pushed her over the edge, then teaching ain’t about to do it, either. And since she’s supported every last one of my career changes, the least I could do is reciprocate.

Even though we’re using my lovely wife as our archtype here, her day is no different from that of thousand of teachers all over Patchland.

Like most of them, she gets up at 5:30 a.m. to make it to a local middle school in time to prepare for those 8 a.m. classes. If you’re a high school teacher, you might be lucky enough to draw one of those “early bird” sessions which start around 6:30 a.m.

I still know what you’re thinking! “But Jeff, then she gets out at 3 p.m. and has the rest of the day to herself.”

Wrong!

My wife—and all of the teachers at that school—rarely get out of the building before 4:30, because there are always children who need extra attention and those frequent parent-teacher meetings scheduled in hopes of getting the more-challenged students back on track.

And those are the parents who actually support the teachers. , at least 50 percent of parents think their children can do no wrong and will often go as far as threatening to sue the school in the face of any discipline their little darlings so desperately need.

As a , I have reasonable reign to deal with disrespectful players, but teachers don’t. Though one of my coaching mentors told me to "run 'em till they puke!" when a player is disrespectful, if a teacher did that, they’d end up on the evening news.

Unless a student is violent, public-school teachers are required work with them until they either drop out or turn 18. And because administrators are tired of getting beaten up by obnoxious parents, teachers tell me they’re taught to always accent the positive with even the most-difficult children, which I’ve found can backfire on you faster than eating a chilidog right before the opera.

When she finally gets home, more often then not, my wife is grading tests and commenting on classwork right up until the time she goes to bed. Some Friday afternoons, I look at her and say, “Who the heck are you?”

On weekends, she does lesson plans. Please don’t try and tell me that ends after the first year of teaching, because it doesn’t. There are constant curriculum changes, ever-expanding unfunded government mandates—and different groups of children require different approaches.

Are there bad teachers? You bet there are! But there are bad columnists, too. Personally, I can’t get through a John Kass column without falling into a deep coma. But that’s not my point! For what they’re generally paid, 95 percent of teachers do an amazing job.

Before you naysayers inevitably respond, I want you to put your money where you mouth is. You see, every year I do a presentation on how to be an entrepreneur for some local high school business classes.

I can generally make it through the first period intact, but even though I have no fear of public speaking, my antiperspirant usually fails in the second period and by the end of the day, I’m ready for a two-month sabbatical.

But if I can do it, so can you. Take just one day out of your busy schedule to share your pearls of wisdom with a local grade/middle/high school class and report back to Patch on the experience.

Sometimes the road to enlightenment isn’t nearly as difficult as we believe it to be!

Jon Exelrud February 05, 2012 at 06:10 PM
This comment indicates the problem with Teachers. You can't compare your salary to professional athletes who are born with special physical skills or doctors or lawyers who go to school much longer than you. Most teachers couldn't get into med school or law school. Why not compare your salaries to people who work nine and a half months or even people with the same education.
Miguel February 05, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Notice nobody criticizes superintendents, nobody says anything about principals! This is the way. Divide and conquer. People against people. Why don't you talk about CEOs of insurance companies, why FOX doesn't tell you about the Monsanto's CEO, or any of these monsters from Wall Street that you are just about to vote for. Farmers? Farmers are super screwed up! Unless you are afiliated to any of the big corporations that rule the fields making the polluted round-up sprayed junk we all eat, full of corn fructose. Wake up people. What do you want? Teachers to get minimum wage, living in shanty towns, so they look like charity workers? Should they be beggers or monks, so you can look at them with disdain as you pass them by? You are all such good Christians! I bet you all go to church on Sunday and free yourself of sins, and get ready on Monday to screw everybody. Wake up poeple. Stop being puppets!
Miguel February 05, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Why don't we talk about pooling the money from all different districts and provide the same budget per student across the state, and even the nation? So the education of a child does not depend solely on a zip code.This way the kids going to school in East St. Louis, Bloomington, Chicago, etc, can receive the same type of education that the students of La Grange public schools receive. Teachers out of college in the Chicago area start at about 34K. All those salaries nearing the 6 digits are people who have 1 or 2 master's degrees, or even doctorals.Plus they also have been working for at least 20 years. The average retired teacher receives around 40K; these are facts. Education is also very expensive, and districts do not reimburse all type of courses but only very specific ones, according to their needs. When they do reimburse is not 100%. Support your teachers! Go after the banksters that brought our economy down in 2008. Go against the people poisoning your water, radiating and spraying the food your kids eat.GEt yourself out of this numbness from watching sports crap on tv year after year as if you knew these people playing in the name of your state, and go after the real issues. There is no money for teachers, firefighters, and police officers but there are limitless tons of money to drop bombs and kill people around the world where there is no even water?
Miguel February 05, 2012 at 09:46 PM
You have no clue of what you are saying. Public schools are not the same as catholic schools. Pleaaaaase! That shows right tehre your ignorance on the topic. Go and teach in Chicago and then talk. IT IS indeed a big deal of difference.
Miguel February 05, 2012 at 09:49 PM
YEs go UNION. You don't like unions? Then give up your weekends, your 8 hour shift, and put your children to work. Learn about your history. You live in Chicago! Chicago! Please read.
Miguel February 05, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Yeah, and you are an idiot. You probably can't even drive that truck, lol.
Kevin February 05, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Miguel said "Why don't we talk about pooling the money from all different districts and provide the same budget per student across the state, and even the nation? So the education of a child does not depend solely on a zip code.This way the kids going to school in East St. Louis, Bloomington, Chicago, etc, can receive the same type of education that the students of La Grange public schools receive. " Actually, if you look it up - http://iirc.niu.edu/ - the spending per pupil is actually HIGHER in East St. Louis than it is in LaGrange or Geneva. Just goes to show, money doesn't educate children, parents educate children.
Miguel February 05, 2012 at 09:59 PM
I think it is a combined effort. I can tell you are a very involved parent in the education process of your children (Or were in the past), by just acknowledging your active role as a parent. East St. Louis is a very particyular case. If you just drive by their schools and look at them, you will not believe there are schools like that in the U.S. I will have to check the site. But I can assure you those schools do not get what ours get around here. Thanks for the link!
Pete February 05, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Actually, the US Dept of Labor requires overtime for hourly workers over 40hrs and child labor is illegal. Nothing to do with unions.
Political PR Machine February 05, 2012 at 11:07 PM
If you drive through east St.Louis, you either have a death wish or you better hope you make it out alive...its an armpit and shows what happens when all you do is complain about taxes.
Pete February 06, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Actually Ken - if you research the history of E. St. Louis, it was a thriving industrial city until the end of WWII.. After the war companies were faced with having to become more efficient to survive and ESL was strong union town. " ...East St. Louis' tough organized labor climate and its reputation for jurisdictional disputes among construction crafts. The Sun Belt beckoned. What began as a trickle turned to a tidal wave of departures and plant closings. The city of jobs suddenly had no jobs."
Ron Burgandy February 06, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Nice post Pete. Finally someone who gets it.
Ron Burgandy February 06, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Why don't we just stop taking money from the government and have local communites fund thier schools? How about private donars to help fund education? I don't want my tax money paying for other school districts. Its my money and I want it spent in my community. Let the other communities figure out how to pay thier own expenses. For too long this country has relied on shared sacrifice and it has failed. We need to make government local so that the people of that community have more say. And BTW...a $40k/yr pension is more than enough. We are paying for the teachers to live not to buy summer homes, corvette's and travel the globe. They need to save for those luxuries. I am not paying for that. I will galdly pay for them to live a modest retirement.
Ron Burgandy February 06, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Thank your local village official next time Mr. Miguel. They are the ones who keep budgets funded and the town looking so nice. I agree with Pete in his post below. When unions get to powerfull and they local town politicians cow tau to those power brokers the balance of power is shifted. Once this power is shifted no one else in town matters. Then taxes go up and people leave town. That is just econ 101.
J February 06, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Jeff, this comment just highlights the amateurness of this column and the writer. On this subject, you have proven that you don't know what you are talking about. There is a middle point, somewhere, for fair salaries and benefits for all teachers, but we are nowhere near it. Silly columns like this with shill comments from those participating in financially pillaging the public don't accomplish anything. Please stick to subjects that you know something about. This isn't one of them.
J February 06, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Jeff, this comment just highlights the amateurness of this column and the writer. On this subject, you have proven that you don't know what you are talking about. There is a middle point, somewhere, for fair salaries and benefits for all teachers, but we are nowhere near it. Silly columns like this with shill comments from those participating in financially pillaging the public don't accomplish anything. Please stick to subjects that you know something about. This isn't one of them.
Ron Burgandy February 06, 2012 at 04:57 PM
This article says it all. This is how education should be. http://www.dennisprager.com/columns.aspx?g=07f08515-be95-4197-955e-327f6a0b98f8
Ron Burgandy February 06, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Ken, That comment is totally filled with racism. Funny how you libs don't even know your doing it! LOL
Political PR Machine February 06, 2012 at 09:51 PM
No...it is an armpit. Race and gender neutral armpit.
Ron Burgandy February 07, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Not hardly Ken. According to the 2010 census info that town is 98% Black. How is that race neutral sir? http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17/1722255.html
Ron Burgandy February 07, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Downers Grove has a 95.5% graduation rate according to the census. Nice to know our teachers are doing a great job and I dont hear them complaining about thier pay. Nice job teachers of Downers Grove. Thanks for all you do.
Ron Burgandy February 07, 2012 at 12:26 AM
More troublesome is the 50% college graduation rate for Downers and the 30% college graduation rate for the state of IL! Why are we creating college degree'd jobs again???
Rich February 08, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Miguel, I coudn't respond to your response above but from your comment, I don't think you actually even read my post. I am not a teacher and have never even been in a Catholic school (no idea where you got that from my post). I do however volunteer to teach and work with kids any chance that I get because I love kids and enjoy being a mentor to them. You apparently feel that working with kids is a "Living Hell" so I am hoping that you are not a teacher. That would definitely not be good for you or the children/young adults. No amount of pay and benefits would seem sufficient to a person that feels that way and maybe that's why you and Jeff feel the way that you do. Enjoying working with kids is a necessity for finding satisfaction in a teaching position otherwise it will never happen.
Jack May 01, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Elliot, The truth is -- if you don't think teaching is worth it, don't teach. The taxpayers have had more than enough of financing your self-flagellation.
Bruno Fontana May 01, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Teachers: Huge pension. 3 monthes off. Virtually no performance review. (BTW-Thankyou Springfield for buying Union votes every year). What job in the private sector allows this? None. If you think people like me will remain in this state to have my tax money pay for underperforming public servants, I can assure you it wont happen. Read some of the responses here.To the writer, I'd suggest you tell your wife to consider herself lucky to not only have a job but to have one with all the percs.
gina May 01, 2012 at 06:25 PM
The average pension is 45,000 for teachers in IL. Teachers are professionals and are not "servants" and should be respected for the work that they do and the parents that they put up with. The writer's wife is student teaching, not a full time teacher, and does not even receive a stipend for her efforts. No percs there.
Emerson May 01, 2012 at 07:54 PM
The $45,000 figure is indeed the average. That includes those that retired many years ago when wages were lower and folks that retired early without reaching full benefits. The current retirement benefit is around $65,000. Not too shabby!
Bart May 01, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Not too shabby at all. Especially when you consider that us non-union folks who have to fund our own 401ks need to sock away over a million dollars to be able to pull out 50k annually after retirement.
gina May 01, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Not too shabby If it is there for them at all/
Bart May 01, 2012 at 09:53 PM
My guess is your union pension will survive longer than my social security

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