Teachers Make Too Much Money

Weekends and summers off. Too good to be true?

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That sentiment seems to flow smoothly off many tongues in today’s climate, but has it ever been challenged? Consider this, while darkness still prevails in the early morning hours, with many cozy in their warm beds, teachers have already unlocked their classrooms, updated all the boards and charts, and prepared their rooms for students that will pour in before 7:30. And, while many are just having their first cup of coffee at their place of work, teachers have an hour of instruction behind them, not having time for a cup of coffee or the use of the restroom. Teachers work daily from a schedule that accounts for every minute, and when they are not in the classroom, teachers are inundated with extra duties, from working in the lunchroom to serving as a hall monitor, to providing mediation to recess duty, and from extracurricular supervision to bus duty, the only possible break in the entire day is lunch. Yet, that generous 30-minute break for sustenance is rarely used, leaving the staff break-room empty as teachers trade that time to catch up on grading and preparing for the next round of students while they scarf down a pack of nabs and a few sips of water at their desk.

Oh, but teachers are done their day at 3 o’clock, you say? Nope. After making sure most children are safely on their way home, some teachers must wait for that late parent, the broken-down van, or the substitute bus driver who is overwhelmed with a new route and running behind. Then, classrooms need to be prepared for the janitorial staff, papers need to be organized, items left behind by students need to be placed, and the classrooms need to be prepped for the next day. Suppose a teacher is not feeling well and has to take off the following day for sickness? In that case, they remain an additional 2-3 hours, well into dinner time, finding a substitute teacher, and creating an in-depth packet to guide them through the next educational day. 

Coming home in the dark reminds teachers of their trip at the start of the day, also in the darkness. Being on their feet all day, traveling from class to class, room to room throughout a large school, teachers are greeted by excited children, loving pets, and perhaps a spouse, all wanting to know, “what’s for dinner?”. With no time to change or relax, dinner is made, chores are done, children are helped with homework, bedtime stories are read, and dogs are taken out. Then, it’s time to relax, or is it? It is usually around 9 or 10 o’clock, and teachers are generally at a desk grading all those papers completed earlier in the day. Suppose a teacher is lucky, and it was a slow educational day? In that case, exhausted bodies collapse on the bed sometime after 11 o’clock with the alarm intruding their much-needed rest at 5:30 in the morning to start that schedule all over again.

Well, teachers enjoy every weekend off, right? Nope again. All of those hours of daily classroom instruction require many hours each week to create lesson plans. Also, since there is no time during the workday, teachers are very busy during the weekends returning e-mails and phone calls from parents upset about grades, discipline, lost hats, homework questions, or help with paying for supplies or trips. Then there’s the school district required meetings, training sessions, and events, not to mention the field trips, sporting events, music concerts, plays, car washes, and school supply drives teachers often attend, sometimes just because they want to support your child. So, by the time Monday morning arrives, most teachers are still struggling to recover from the hectic week prior yet arise with the passion for serving another day.

What about having every summer off! That is funny! Because teachers are required to hold a four-year accredited degree, pass several state exams and take a certain amount of continuing education to receive and maintain their license, they find themselves overwhelmed in school debt and paid significantly less than other positions requiring a college education. Therefore, summers are often spent working another job; lawn-care, daycare, tutoring, summer school, painting, stocking shelves at Wal-Mart, and waiting tables at Olive Garden, just to keep up financially since they are not paid all twelve months of the year. And, if a teacher has a desire to enter administration, they must hold at least a master’s degree to be competitive or a doctorate if they aspire to be promoted to service at the central office. No wonder one in ten teachers leaves the profession each year, and the annual turnover rate is between 20 and 46%! And that was all before the stress the COVID pandemic brought to the halls of education.

Lastly, let us not forget the lack of support teachers often experience, at times, from all sides. The lawnmower parents defending their children by yelling and cursing at the teachers for giving a deserved low grade to central office policies that can complicate the process with confusing and difficult expectations almost impossible to flesh out in the classroom. Teachers are questioned, second-guessed, criticized, maligned, mistreated, and disrespected by students and parents every day, with parents often expecting more from the teachers than they do themselves in their child’s life. And to make matters worse, teachers are now fearful of the lives of their students and themselves. Many districts have kept teachers in the classrooms for most, if not all, of this pandemic, mandating teachers place themselves on the front lines, risking their very lives to maintain their students’ instruction. Add that emotional stress to the daily toll their profession takes on their physical and mental well-being, and perhaps, you may reconsider your position that teachers “have it made.”

So, this Christmas, while you enjoy unadulterated time with your family around the tree, perhaps take a moment and thank God for your child’s teacher, and even consider a tangible gift of encouragement; it certainly can’t hurt. And the next time you think of casting shade or criticizing a teacher, remember, that teacher may be investing in and loving your child almost as much as you do.

Tom McCracken, Ed.D(c)

A Yes Fish World

One of the greatest attributes a Christian can have is always to remain teachable. 

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There is a story told in Muppet Land called the Yes Fish. This story finds baby Ms. Piggy traveling to the bottom of the ocean in search of a treasure chest rumored to contain great power. Throughout her trip, she is surrounded by a group of fish called Yes-Fish. These yellow fish look very cool with blue fins and crazy glasses, seemingly smart and comforting. And these fish answer every question Ms. Piggy asks with a “YES!”; should I touch this? YES! Should I enter that cave? YES! Should I keep searching for the chest? YES! Eventually, Ms. Piggy finds this chest but has second thoughts about the opening. She remembers those that advised against her journey that the chest contained a great evil that should never be released. Torn between excitement and fear, Ms. Piggy leaves it to those fish that have been with her the entire trip. So, she asks them, should I open this chest, to which they reply, YES! So, with excitement, she flings open the chest, and immediately two large black blobs seep out and start to consume everything they touch. They grow bigger and bigger with everything they consume, eventually finishing the entire ocean, leaving only a path of destruction and desolation. Ms. Piggy, now standing on the dry ground that used to be the ocean floor, and surveying all the death around her, regrets her decision. 

While she listened to the Yes fish, she failed to recognize that Yes Fish always say “yes,” don’t always tell the truth, but their counsel almost always leads to trouble.

What a great life lesson for us. How often do we intentionally surround ourselves with people and information that simply confirm our beliefs, justify our responses, support our decisions, and reaffirms our evaluations of self or circumstance? While this may be the path to “feeling good,” it rarely results in growth or success. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (ESV). 

When you limit your counsel to those in your circle, thereby surrounding yourself with Yes fish, you reject godly advice from a different view, thereby missing out on potential growth. 

One of the greatest attributes a Christian can have is always to remain teachable. 

Oh, how many folks hear criticism and simply shut down and stop whatever they were doing instead of considering the input and doing the difficult thing; growing. We live in a Yes Fish world where folks only want to listen to what they want to hear, and any voice that goes against their opinion is discarded at best or violently silenced at worse. 

May today, we all open ourselves to those voices that God places in our lives that may not feel good but maybe for our good.

Scripture: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” -Proverbs 19:20

Question: Think back to when you were given some criticism that hurt your feelings. Did you use it to grow or allow bitterness to flow?

Prayer: Father, sometimes hearing from an opposing view is challenging, yet may I recognize that you can use those voices to stretch my faith and grow in grace. With your strength, I desire to open my circle of influence to opposing views and different ways, that once filtered through your Word, I genuinely consider as tools in expanding my beliefs, changing my practices, and becoming more equipped to serve. Thank you for your instruction, and may I always remain teachable. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen. 

On The Winning Side

God has your six.

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Shaking, almost uncontrollably, I lunged toward a small rope ladder on the side of a Japanese container vessel in the Bearing Sea. It was dark, and the freezing rain stung my face as I made my way up about 20 feet to the deck of a vessel the Coast Guard deemed suspicious enough to investigate. I was part of a six-man boarding team whose mission was to clear the ship of illegal drugs or contraband. As the group’s newest member, I was positioned in the second row, armed only with a can of military-grade mace. That first turn we took, I was overwhelmed by the foreign whispers resonating through the darkened hall to the point my shaking must have been noticed by one of the two sailors behind me. Leaning up to my left ear, my shipmate simply said, “McCracken, we got your six; “six” referring to the number on a clock in relation to the 12; in other words, he was saying my back was covered.

Many times, in my fourteen years of military training, in both the Army and Coast Guard, this concept had been reinforced; soldiers and sailors protect each other’s six. Even our military’s modern armor reflects this as the Kevlar bulletproof inserts and shielding are to be worn on the front, never the back. This is not unique, the Roman military in the Apostle Paul’s day maintained the same practice. When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, he likened the spiritual resources available to the Christian soldier to the military’s practical ones. The Apostle Paul said to “take up the whole armor of God” so that Christians could stand victorious on the battlefield of the faith. The word “whole” speaks to the completeness of the armor God issues to each Christian in His army; in other words, nothing is lacking; God supplies all that is needed to achieve victory. But, if we look closely at each component of our “God issued armor,” there appears to be a point of vulnerability.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul identifies six distinct pieces of armor the Christian must don when engaging in spiritual warfare; the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit. Every part of the body is covered, or are they? Notice that each piece of armor is designed to protect the wearer from the top, bottom, front, and sides; the breast, head, feet, and shield, yet God’s supply locker has nothing to cover the back! Remember that young and scared sailor on the Japanese ship, concerned about what he couldn’t see or defend lurking behind him? It was that quiet and reassuring voice that whispered, “We got your six,” that instilled a sense of peace and calm.

There are a few reasons God does not provide for our back:

1. Retreat is never an option for the Christian. There should never be a time when a Christian soldier should turn their back on the enemy and run for fear. God has defeated that miserable snake and given every believer the power to storm the gates of Hell (Mt. 16:17-19).

2. As Christians soldiers, we should all be protecting each other’s six. There’s no place for disunity among the ranks of God’s army, hence no need to fear an unprotected back when surrounded by Christian comrades (John 15:13).

3. Our Commander is always with us. As we march into spiritual war, I can almost hear the Commander-our Heavenly Father-whispering through the ranks of those overwhelmed, anxious, and scared, “I got your six.” No matter who might conspire against us, abandon their post beside us or hurl weapons at us, God will always protect us (Isa. 54:17).

The battlefield of our faith has never been so active as it is in our current culture. And, more and more Christian soldiers have walked away from the battle, hung up their armor, and given up the fight; many viewing victory as a hopeless and hurtful cause.

There is one nugget in Paul’s address to the Christian soldiers that perhaps can encourage you. Before Paul tells each believer to put on the armor of God, he first says to “Stand.” In Paul’s day, that was a wrestling term, and the only wrestler that could stand was the victor after the match. By Paul telling us to stand before we put on our armor for battle, he reminds us that Jesus has already obtained victory through the cross. The war is not ours, but His, and He has already fought and won; we are now just marching home carrying the banner of our victory and fending off any disgruntled enemies along the way!

Scripture: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” -Ephesians 6:13-18, ESV

Question: Have you gotten so discouraged, fighting for your faith, that you have given up? Have you surrendered to this world? Resigned just to hide out and wait until your Commander calls you home?

Prayer: Father, thank you for reminding me of your power inside of me. At times I feel so lonely as if I am the only one on the battlefield. May I have the faith to believe that you are enough, even if everyone else does abandon me, your power and presence are more than sufficient. Please give me the strength to continue and the power to overcome. May I be so confident in you that I march boldly through this world as a victorious child of the King. Thank you for overcoming the world, sin, and Satan, and thank you for the reminder that I am on the winning side. May I be faithful in your fight today. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.