As I sat next to President Obama at a table at Stubb’s last spring, he asked me about my salary after 8 years of teaching. I told him I made a little over $40,000 a year. He pursed his lips and shook his head. He said he didn’t think it was enough. It’s not. But the truth is that no matter what the salary, I’d still be a teacher.
A few years ago as I was completing my Masters in Education at the University of Texas, I took a PhD class that was made up of people who wore suits in the summer (something I couldn’t quite understand). On the first day of class, we had to take turns introducing ourselves, stating our current positions, and then telling the class our aspirations. My classmates said that they hoped to be superintendents, directors of some program, or some type of specialist. When it was my turn, I stated that I was a teacher, that I had no aspirations, and that I intended to be a teacher forever. My suited classmates feigned smiles and told me that was a noble goal.
But it’s not a goal. It’s a destiny. It is who I am. This is my life and will always be, just as it was for my mother who dedicated 35 of her life to students and families in AISD. Though three years into retirement, she now spends time helping me in my classroom. I’m not going anywhere. These are my families, my kids, and my community in Austin.
Once in a conversation with Trustee Bradley, I explained to her how my classroom works, how my students are supported and loved, how relationships are built and sustained. And she said, “But you’re not like everyone else.”
I thought about this long and hard after that conversation. I thought about my colleagues. I thought about my mother. I thought about her colleagues. And I realized that Trustee Bradley is wrong in this case.
I am a lot like everyone else. I know the time and passion teachers put into bettering the lives of the young people we educate. I am not unique, for this is who we are.
As teachers, we build each other up. We work collaboratively to improve the lives of the children who pass through our classrooms. We problem-solve together. We laugh. We cry. All the while knowing that we are in the same boat of equipping our youth to do wonderful things.
The messages and interactions we get from those above us, those in charge, often pull us down and put pressure on us until we might crack if it weren’t for one another and the sweet faces in our classrooms.
Now is the time to change the message from the top.
To the school board I say this: Let me know that you value me. That you value us. That you value the way we love and teach our students. That your investment in me is an investment in them.
Some might say a move back to three-year contracts is unnecessary or financially irresponsible in a time of budget shortfalls, though extending contracts comes at no cost to the district. This need not become another divisive issue to cross the dais because the reality is that not much will change.
Except this. I will know that the school district cares about me and what I do. We, who devote our lives to our students, will know that we are appreciated and respected. Do we not deserve to hear that message?
Boosting, because it is true and a source of confidence in my district.