So there I was wondering what to blog about in today’s Blog-A-Day challenge. Should it be Rihanna’s boobs? More diabetic snark, sob stories or support? Something about the wrongness of sugar free chocolates?
Then she walked right into my staff room. Or maybe it was that I walked right into hers, because by the time I entered, and headed to my desk (right beside her self-declared platform) she was in full swing- a tiny little lady with a megaphone voice, bellowing animatedly about Teachers’ rights and…something, something, something.
Now, before I knew what was happening, in an audience of about 80, I became Audient #1 for her. Teachers who never stop complaining- and rightfully so- about the way the government and media portray us (as lazy, bumbling, greedy, grasping tax-suckers) were largely unmoved by the tiny prophet in our midst.
Sure, she may turn out to be a shyster yet, but her pint sized passion tickled me something fierce. I couldn’t help it….I smiled. She saw. And she locked on to me and kept her focus on my face as she preached (prought?) about the injustice of calling any teacher ‘a senior teacher’ and giving them a wage benefit that is then taxed additionally, reducing any boost to dust and ashes.
“ I tell you the truth, I think this title ‘Senior Teacher’ is FOOLISHNESS,” she roared, pointing at a group of senior teacher biddies, who clasped their proverbial pearls and gasped in outrage. “I’ve been one for 17 years and…FOOLISHNESS!” she bellowed to the heavens.
Then she went on to tell us they’ve run her out of conferences and meetings and off radio shows for ‘asking the wrong’ questions, but that she believed in asking the ‘wrong questions for the right reasons’; she swore solemnly that she would put teacher rights first, and get us heard, and paid what we’re worth and WERE WE WITH HER????
Once the awkward silence faded, and the air resumed the nondescript bustle of a busy staff room, I looked around. My desk is in a real real-estate hellhole. I’m right by one of the two staff room landlines, and people seem to think I should answer the phone whenever it rings, which is ALL. THE. TIME. I also sit quite near to a specific triumvirate of senior teachers ranging from intimidation factors of ‘meh’ to “KILL IT WITH FIRE!”
I hear all. I see all. Everyone who makes a personal call, everyone who complains to or about The Hydra… They all do it riiiight inside my personal bubble.
And what I have learned is: we’re unhappy.
I don’t mean, “oh let’s make a light, cult classic about the drudgery of our working existence” unhappy. I mean a “Save the kids! Hide yourselves! Who’s on suicide watch?” horror show. Why? Oh so many reasons. I realize some of us are just bad, bad, terrible people. Some of us have so much going on in our ‘out of school’ life (some of us have those) that ‘at school’ is just too much to bear. Some of us feel the weight of a career choice that almost mandates poverty and disrespect as a way of life. We have kids we have to tell ‘no’ more than we’d like. We have vacations that will never be taken more than 2 feet from our front door. We have hopes and dreams and ideas for….for more.
Bless the magical few who were woven together from enchanted chalk dust, born to teach and enlighten and inspire. I started teaching because one such teacher changed my life. I started teaching at THIS school, because THIS is where she teaches (Hi, Auntie Aba!) In my head, I’m like her: strict, no-nonsense, firm with the ability to breathe magic into every topic touched, resplendent in an aura of light and love, even while tsk-ing at your poor performance.
In reality, I’m growing increasingly convinced that I’m that teacher. *That* teacher. The one who would be better off designing amazing lesson plans and activities, but with no human contact. For the sake of said humans.
Would my life be happier if I earned more for my troubles? OF COURSE! And respect. And recognition! And a wider understanding that as your child’s foreign language teacher I am not a glorified nanny, I am an EDUCATOR and that should MEAN something! It wouldn’t fix everything. But if my salary could even KIND of stretch to let me do a pedi more often, I’m fairly sure I could forgive a lot more of the madness we endure.
Most of us feel that. It’s what we moan about all day. I sit by the phone. I sit near The Gaggle. I hear us. I see us. I know.
Yet we sat here, listened to this fiery fairy squawk about the very real ways she wanted to change the world and we glazed over, like our students in the last session of the day. We gave up without trying. We sighed and said some version of, ‘as it is, so it shall be’ and went back to complaining about The Way Life Is.
Well, screw that. Maybe she’ll never make a difference. Maybe the stabby parts of this job will NEVER change. The pay will always be less than other options, the children horribler (and more numerous- where else do YOU have to face hundreds of hormonal (pre) teens and sugar-hyped horrors every. single. day?) Maybe, based on my highly pragmatic (occasionally single-minded and almost pathologically detached) personality, I shouldn’t even BE here much (any?) longer.
But today I am here. And today, I want to count! And to try! And to say WE GAVE IT A SHOT, MY LITTLE LEARNING LEPRECHAUN!!!!
So I ran her down and signed her petition, and I took a flyer, and I stapled it to the bulletin board with a sparkly pink staples and a neon Post-it arrow. And I hugged her and told her that her today was a good today, and that she had made it proud.
And so I speak to myself as I trudge off to another class: No one knows how many todays they have left in a job, in a relationship, in a country, in LIFE, even. The best you can do is take every today, and try to make it one hell of a today. TODAY.
Cover me, interwebs. I’m going in.