Thursday, August 26, 2004

I teach, therefore I bend over

I love my students. Every single sad, spoiled, screwed up and germy one of them. I love them enough to endure dirty chocolate hugs, touching perpetual skin-lickers, holding hands with Miss Fingers-up-the-nose, and putting up with a kid who kicks the table because he doesn’t know how not to. Why is that never enough? Why must I sign a binding contract without any salary information in March when it doesn’t go into effect until August, and when I won’t know my salary until September? Why must it say in my contract that I will “perform any duties the principal may assign”? Why am I told that I have the summer off, but if I don’t spend some time working during the summer the first two weeks of the year are 80-hours long?

Teachers are not volunteers. And yet. The expectation is that a teacher will be there to help their students. Great. Where do I file the overtime? College professors do not spend time babysitting students during in-school suspension. Professors do not get asked to tutor, after school, for free. No one looks at a professional lecturer and says, “We’ll need you to stay later to make sure everyone got it, but we can’t pay you.” I don’t remember in any of my other jobs being told to do things for the “good of the children.”

No other profession lectures its people so often about the harm you can do to someone with just your tone of voice. On no other career path would I be exhorted to be “resilient” quite so vehemently. I am an elementary school teacher. I resent being told that instead of sticking up for myself that I must assume the position of a doormat, and be a team player. “Make sure that you are flexible, because we must work together.”

I am not a volunteer. I am paid to teach. And yet. I am expected to follow a dress code that includes pantyhose. Last school year, the principal came to me with a complaint. One of the other teachers had been able to catch a glimpse of my underwear, and “could I please take care of that.” Huh? Yep, a fellow teacher complained about my UNDERWEAR.

But I’m not a volunteer.
This is a paid position, so before you ask me to do anything beyond my regular duties, make sure that you have the funds. Make sure that you stock my special kind of disinfectant, give me a regular break during the day and a lunch hour, never ask me to stay after my contract hours, allow me to use my own good judgement about my wardrobe, and keep that checkbook ready for my overtime. Because this is it baby.

Who am I kidding? I’ll be there tomorrow, with bells on. Taking down my pants with the rest of them, asking to get kicked in the ass again.