Monday, July 07, 2008

A Teacher's Wife - Warning: Major RANT

When Hollywood finally writes a movie about the families of teachers...well, that'll never happen, and I'm not sure what I'll do. Some time ago I saw the movie Freedom Writers, and I took note of the fact that the teacher in the movie gets tons of recognition, which she probably should, and, even now, she is a traveling public speaker, who sells her ideas about how to create a successful classroom to teachers all over America. There's only one major problem. Her personal life is a shambles. In the movie, the teacher takes on an extra job to pay for materials for her students. She works long extra hours to arrange fancy banquets and special events so her students can have some pretty amazing experiences. One day, she comes home and her husband is sitting there with his suitcases packed. They hardly know each other any more. She claims that this period of their marriage was the time when they were both going to work on their careers and pour their energy into their dreams before they had children...blah, blah, blah. I gotta tell you something, a marriage needs TIME to survive. And Hollywood is selling the idea that the best teachers give up their whole lives for their classroom. Hollywood sells us these success stories that only make me sit and cry, not because they're so touching, but because the teachers in those stories have given up *everything* to teach.

I thank God every time I see those stories that Mango is not that kind of teacher. But I bet his student's parents don't want to hear that, and neither does the school district. I gotta tell you, I am so sick and tired of everyone expecting teachers to be these martyrs who will do anything to improve the lives of their students, even if it means not coming home to their own families at night. (And then blaming teachers whenever everything isn't perfect.) Mango works as hard as he possibly can to do his job well without flaking out on his family every day. For weeks on end he stayed after school with no extra pay to build a computer lab with his advanced students. A few years later, he built a robot with another group of students, all on his own time and off the district clock. Nobody wrote a movie about him. And nobody wrote a book about me...or Mane...or Vespera...about the time we spent riding the bus so we could come sit in the classroom after school and draw on the whiteboard and watch Mango work. So, at least, we could be in the same room. People recognize us at the school because we have packed lunches many Saturdays and gone to clean Mango's office and grade papers together...because we aren't willing to sacrifice the time we have together, even if it means working side by side.

So, it particularly hurt when the "district" called this week and said that Mango need to go to a conference in two weeks...beginning on a day that we already have hotel reservations for our 10th anniversary. If he wants his old job back (yes, he got rehired at the same school) he has to go to this conference. It's our 10th anniversary. But, of course, nobody cares. Or rather, they pretend to care, and then assume, because he's a teacher, that he should do it anyway. He'll be gone for 2 weeks. We can't afford to go with him. So, there it is. Maybe we'll have our 10th anniversary next year. *sigh* He won't be gone on our actual anniversary, just some of the days we were planning to be gone together...and already had a babysitter arranged.

There you have it people. I hate the way teaching is portrayed in the movies. I hate the way American politicians assume that teachers aren't doing their jobs, and that's what's the matter with American schools. I hate the way teachers are expected to work at least 20 hours more per week than their contract, and when they threaten to only work the contract everyone whines about how it's hurting the students. I hate the way everyone pretends that teachers don't have spouses and children. I hate the pained look in Mango's eyes every time he has to make a choice about where to spend his time, knowing that there aren't really any win-win choices.

Maybe they had it right at Hogwarts. The teachers are all single and live at the school.

4 comments:

  1. why all the hate?
    KIDDING.
    I totally get it. I just really love jokes. Even if they're really bad jokes...
    in all seriousness, I'm sorry about your anniversary. And I'm so impressed with your ability to articulate the reality of teaching and family. So true and honest. I loved your post. But I don't love that you're hurt.
    Hang in there, lady. You are a gift of a wife, that I know for sure!

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  2. Thanks.

    I guess having you leave a comment means that I can't go back & delete my angsty post, huh? ;) I figure I might get embarrassed about it eventually. Right now I'm still frustrated & angry.

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  3. Bravo to you and well said! I'm a public school teacher and have experienced everything you mentioned. Teaching is the most thankless job and we are blamed for all the things that parents don't want to be responsible for. I notice through the years more and more things are scheduled in the summer - and can we say no?

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  4. Just found your blog. As a fellow teacher's wife, I wholeheartedly agree with this post.

    My husband (of 26 years) has been teaching 18 of those years (as I have parented and homeschooled our 13 children).

    Wouldn't it be nice if all teachers received the recognition (and pay) that they so deserve.

    Laurel :)

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