So, I don't have an "About Me" page because a) the three people that check this know me, and b) I can't come up with anything to write that doesn't make me feel like a weirdo.
But here's some background necessary for the rest of this post. I'm twenty-seven years old. I've lived in Chicago my entire life, except four years just north of the border at Northwestern. Until college, I was educated exclusively at public schools. I stood in Grant Park on the night of November 4, 2008, electrified with hope and pride. I have a Masters degree in Elementary Education, and my philosophy on teaching and children would be categorized as progressive. When I felt called to this profession (and honestly, maybe I felt more called to children than I did to a teaching "career"), I knew with certainty that I would only work in the Chicago Public Schools. It was where I came from, and it always feels nice to go home.
I've been a teacher for three years. They have been, without doubt, the hardest years of my life-- and this is coming from someone who lived with an unmedicated & violent bipolar parent, has had depression since childhood, and dealt with eating disorders for seven years. Not complaining, just facts. "About Me," remember?
I expected them to be hard; to teach well is hard. But this school year has gone above and beyond on the difficulty factor. I'm a sensitive person by nature. I take things personally and feel things deeply. And to see elected officials in this city-- people I once admired-- spin and politicize and posture almost daily in the media about what the teachers are doing wrong makes me sick. Literally.
This fall, I had so many panic attacks that I went from taking one type of medication to taking three just to function. The work-related anxiety and pressure I felt were through the roof. There were serious conversations in this apartment about a quick city hall marriage (not at all what we have envisioned for our wedding) so that I could quit mid-year and keep Kevin's benefits. I did not know what to do. I didn't think I would make it.
I've made it. But almost every day I read or hear something about how teachers are lazy, with their fat pensions and summers off and bloated salaries. I have no doubt that some teachers are lazy, with fat pensions, who take their summers off and collect a tidy little sum. But I don't know any of those people. They're not at my school; they're not the people I went to grad school with. The people I know work 7 to 5, just like me. They spend several weeks of the summer planning and preparing and organizing. They work through lunches and work at home and on weekends.
So every time I see that generalization being made, I feel a little more devalued, a little more less than. Everything I do feels a little more futile.
To be quite frank, there is a small part of me that is angry that I didn't know better. My whole life, I've been successful when it comes to traditional schooling. I was the first person in my family to go to college. I was supposed to be "successful" when I grew up. So how did I screw up so royally when it came to choosing a profession? Why are people I went to school with who work the same hours I do making salaries that are tens of thousands more than mine? Why am I working so hard when people don't respect what I do? I should be more successful, I tell myself. I shouldn't be in this situation.
But I am. And even with all of the garbage swirling around teaching right now, there are still those moments that make it worth it. My students walked in on Monday morning with a huge vase of flowers and dozens of ridiculous and sparkly handmade cards. Someone made me the Emerald City out of Play-Doh. Why? Two reasons. One, my kids are super cute and two, it's National Teacher Appreciation Week. I had no idea.
For that morning, I felt better about what I do again. I remembered why I do it.
This morning, I learned that the President issued a proclamation on Monday. It was to declare this week-- this week-- National Charter School Week. If you're not familiar with education, the move to charter (basically to privatize) education is a very political, divisive issue. The President made a political statement that was a slap in the face to to many at a time when teachers are being blamed for a NATION'S failure... on the one week that was supposed to be about celebrating all teachers, regardless of what school you're teaching in.
Obama? You're doing it wrong.
*Obama's daughters attended an expensive progressive private school while they lived in the city, not a public charter school. The Mayor sends his children to the same private school; one that emphasizes learning over test scores. The latter is the Mayor's main concern for Chicago's school district-- as long as it's not his children that are affected by it.