With all the recent union-bashing that’s going on these days I often find myself thinking back to the 6 years I spent as a middle school teacher. Having gone into teaching from a successful career as an editor, one of the first things that struck me was how little respect teachers get. Oh, there are platitudes. The little plaques friends and family — and even students and parents — give you about how precious teachers are. But the reality is that it is a grueling, demanding, and frustrating job with success sometimes not apparent until years later.
It’s a job where you have to arrive early because when the first bell rings you’d better be ready. The best teachers get there at least an hour early. It’s a job where you’d better hope your classroom is near the faculty bathroom, because if you’ve gotta go you have about 2 minutes from when one class is out and the next crew comes in. There’s that pesky “planning period” everyone thinks is such a luxury, but when you teach 5 classes a day, that’s a lot of lessons to plan — much less copies to make, equipment to set up, assignments to grade, etc. etc.
But what really got me thinking about this today was when I went to put my frozen food in the microwave. Every time I do this I have a flashback to my teaching days. All I have to do is read the instructions on the box and remember how many times I would stand in the grocery store doing that and say to Unnamed Partner “Nope. Can’t get that one. Too may steps.” Or my favorite: “Nope. This one takes 6 minutes to cook. That’s too long.”
You see, the faculty lunch room has one microwave. At lunchtime, 15-20 teachers and aids arrive, with at least half planning to use the microwave. With a 30-minute lunch period, it doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that anything that takes more than 2-3 minutes to cook will get you banished for life. Especially if other teachers feel, as I did, that the most effective punishment is not the 30-minute after-school detention but the 5-minute lunch detention. So now you’re down to 25 minutes for lunch, bathroom break, and back to your room to put the drill up on the board before 30+ students get there.
Yes, these are the unreasonable demands that have been put into place thanks to the unions. Think about that next time you log out of Facebook and go out to lunch with your colleagues ….