Chapter 13: The Overburden of Being Underpaid as an Edmonton Area Teacher
As we enter into another year, I reflect on the past 6. That's how long it's been since I have finished high school & entered into my first year of post secondary. That's as long as junior high and high school combined. That's as long as you lived your carefree life as a child before having to enter into kindergarten. That's as long as your parents might have to carry on with their daily routine until they retire. That's as long as it will take to pay off your Brand New Car at that ridiculous interest rate.
That's... a long time.
But what's longer is the career life of a teacher. Just like that inspirational, wonderful person from your youth that was sooo full of knowledge and depth and charisma - so much so that you decided that you too should become a teacher. You will make a difference in the lives of generations to come. Well congratulations. You did it. Hell, if you did it right, you might even be starting your second year of teaching tomorrow!! Only 38 more to go. But good on ya!
I thought that I was going to be a teacher. Mr. Mike Engel was the man back in '95 that really gave us kids some perspective on life. He showed us how we could be good people in a very large world. "Leaders of Tomorrow" if you will. As it turns out, one of his students will be starting Harvard this fall! But teachers like that are the ones that inspire the majority of kids wanting a post secondary education to go into teaching. Not a lot of kids are very adept to English literature, organic chemistry, or environmental engineering after all. But they know they want that degree that will get them a job. It's what middle-class white families that live in the suburbs expect from the children they raise after all. So Ed. Easy way out. I mean, it's not like these 17 and 18 year olds finishing highschool really have a fucking clue as to what other career options are out there for them besides teaching, given that teachers are the people that a kid spends the most time through 12 out of the first 18 years of his/her life; and especially when there is that societal/parental demand of getting that damn' degree. So Ed. Congratulations on your life decision.
I admire teachers as individuals. Mr. or Mrs. Borchert - both very admirable teachers. Mr. Cook - probably the most focussed teacher that the system will see in the next 20 years. Miss Bouten - amazing with kids! But the problem I have has really more to do with the way the system educates. It offers a stressful position for students, teachers, and parents. First the parents. They have the most responsibility of all (though some don't quite understand that) which includes making their child become smart. Only so much can be absorbed by the student in the classroom when they are up all night screwing around on the computer** or playing X-Box. And there is only so much ridilin in the world. FAS, abusive dramatic on-again off-again relationships from Mum & Dad, junk food, the expense (and demand) of extra-curricular activities + the need to "keep up with the Jones's" also make it hard for parents to give their child a wholesome upbringing. Balance right? Isn't it all just about balance? Well sometimes when parents get a little bit off balance, it's the child who will start to suffer - and this will become apparent where he/she spends the majority of his/her time: in the classroom.
Students are put through the ringer too by the way the system is. The curriculum is bullshit. Matric? Like come on!! A lot of kids shouldn't be forced into the 10-20-30 stream when it is quite apparent that they will have a hard time with hit. There are other options after all. The other parts that I remember being in the curriculum too, are also a lot of BS. I know history is important, since history repeats itself, yet my knowledge of the French and Russian revolutions far outweigh anything about the Trudeau government, the Great Depression, or The war of 1812. Permutations and Combinations? wtf. The origin of AIDS or the genocide by Milosovic or the battle between Tutsis and Hutus or ... So many important things are left out of the curriculum while so much more needs to be taken out! Suffer the children.
Lastly we have the Teachers. The "let's work 7 months of the year, pay hike or strike, stressridden, fieldtrip chaperones that have to come in soooooo early for volleyball practice and stay up soooooooo late at night to prepare their lessons" teachers. The same people that either copped out of engg to teach math, or coasted through highschool with ease but thought "why bother to go for something greater than something that I already know soo well already?" The same people who have to do the proper raising of your children while you are too busy bringing home the bacon. The same people who will get the first grey hairs, the first lines under their eyes. The same people that are in Zimbabwe or Guetamala that can only dream of getting to have such a prestigious career because anything beyond that is simply way beyond the hint of affordability. The same people that had that arrogant budgetmore.ca campaign only 1 year ago (when I first really wanted to write about this) stating that teachers simply have much to difficult of a job given all of the resources they have at their disposal that they didn't have 15 years ago for the pay they get. We sure as hell realize that it must be difficult taking your 3 ADD students in addition to the other 22 nine year olds to BodyWorlds on the first Tuesday after a long weekend. Or maybe it was that Thursday before a PD Day. Or the stress of Pizza Day. Don't forget that. Horrible times. Or the end of year trip to Rundle Park or at Christmas where you do nothing but sit at your desk and collect chocolates, coffee mugs, and presents. Tough life.
So I guess this 6 year degree really hasn't been that long. I do have 2 years of engineering work experience after all. That 6 years is certainly better than having to start work as a teacher after only 4, for the next 40 years. Because by that time I know I would feel like I'm 80.
**on a side note: this is the 15th year of having the Internet in Alberta. Wasn't this world really a much more beautiful, wonderful place without having to be soo dependant on computers, e-mail, and the net???