Thursday, September 04, 2003

I woke up today with serious nausea but made it to work anyway. Sure, teachers get lots of free time in the summer, but we hate to miss school days! Even when the kids aren't here yet. Basically I spent the whole day cleaning and organizing my classroom. I moved into a new room this year, because we decided to put all the sixth grade homerooms on the fifth floor and the seventh graders on the sixth floor. By the way - no, there is no elevator. The dumbwaiter works if we're lucky, but you wouldn't want to ride up in it.

A show of hands, please: Who among you spends 2-3 days on your hands and knees scrubbing dust, gum, graffiti, and mouse droppings out of the cabinets, corners, and furniture when you move into a new office? Ah, I see some teachers raising their hands! Yes, that is what I did today. No, I have never heard of my investment banker or doctor friends cleaning their offices themselves - and I am not talking about a quick sweep or dusting off the filing cabinet, this is real scrubbing. I'm not even going to think about the health risks of some of the stuff I cleaned out of those cabinets today.

When teachers talk about "not getting paid enough," I don't think it's just the money we're talking about. It's the quality of life. At this point, if you're young and single, you can definitely live on a beginning teacher's salary. God help you if you are a single mom, but for most of us, the money at the start is manageable, at least in NY. It's a different story once you've been working for a while: you get your masters, maybe even your Ph.D., and take dozens of supplementary courses, but after teaching for 30 years you're just barely making double the starting salary... no matter how good you are. But the unmentioned problem that fuels many of the complaints, in my opinion, is the quality of life as a teacher. You've spent as much time in school as any other professional, and you've got the student loans to prove it, yet there you are spraying 409 on your shelves on Sept. 4th.*

My first year of teaching, I was moving into a room "vacated" by the previous science teacher. I had been emptying one shelf after another, sorting the useful from the garbage from the "huh?" when I reached into the back of a deep, dark shelf only to pull out a squishy, yellowed package of......


Dead fish intended for dissection. Probably had been dead as long as I'd been living. Luckily, I'm a science teacher, so I just giggled and threw them out.

Finally, here is a New York Times article about the changes to the NYC school system. I am one of the hopeful.

*If you don't change rooms and you take care of things during the school year - and any other teachers using your room also take care of things - then you might not have to do so much the next year.


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