Tag Archives: life

Does money matter for teachers?

People used to ask me, “What do you do?”

I’d say, “I’m a Publications Specialist.” Before that I’d say, “I’m an editor, writer, graphic artist, or copy editor.” They’d nod and smile in approval and ask more questions about it. I felt respected.

Now, when people ask that question, I say, “I’m a teacher.” Their eyes pop open, sometimes there’s a gasp or a grunt or even a hiss with a dramatic “Ouch” at the end. I was startled that at first. I stopped wanting to answer people. I avoided the question when we were meeting people. Sometimes I even told my husband that I would just say I’m a writer and editor because I still am so I’m not lying or anything. I’d just leave out what I do the majority of the time throughout the year.

But, I couldn’t avoid it completely. So as I started answering that question more and more, I realized people just felt sorry for me when I said I was a teacher and it didn’t have to be bad. So, I’d laugh and grunt with them. I’d agree and then unload my frustrations on them. It felt kind of good considering that I needed counseling after all the rough weeks of teaching.

However, the underlying problem of telling people that I am a teacher never seemed to change.

There’s a tangible lack of respect for teachers. We are jokes. We are servants. We are babysitters. We can’t do anything else. We are burps in a person’s life that they’d like to forget about.

Or, we are honored for being so special that we work for scraps thrown from the dinner table and educate the children who will someday rule over all of us and either save or destroy the world. This latter “honored” reaction, I’ve found, happens a lot less than the other negative ones.

Somewhere, far, far away

According to an article in The Guardian, How the job of teachers compares around the world, there’s respect for Chinese teachers and teachers in Finland receive the monetary rewards that make teaching worthwhile and transform it into a respected, even sought-after profession.

So, yes, asking “Does money matter to teachers?” is a loaded question, I know. Many teachers would say, “Sit down and let’s talk for at least two weeks about why teachers absolutely need to be paid more.” Still others would say, “It’s not about the money.”

Despite either reaction, let’s just say this, teachers deserve more money based on the fact that they work endless hours and hold the world’s future in their hands. And, of course, I’m talking about the good ones. Those who look like they’ve been through WW III after the first week of school and lug stacks of papers back and forth from the school to their homes.

There was a video I watched about a year ago about applying to a demanding job.

People who were applying for jobs were asked by their potential employers to do what moms do without knowing that it was actually a list of tasks that every mom does. And, we all know moms don’t get paid for what they do. The people interviewing for the jobs were horrified and immediately rejected the jobs. In the end, when they were told that they were really applying for the job that all moms do, their faces changed to a knowing, a deep appreciation, a realization that only mothers do something so insanely valuable for no pay whatsoever.

I would argue that good teachers come close to that idea. Is it the same? Absolutely not, just the same idea.

To say we as teachers don’t work for the money is quite true. To say we shouldn’t demand more pay is not fair and ridiculous.

Dedication

We don’t work for the money because we’re paid nothing compared to the amount of hours we put into it. We grade stacks of papers at home throughout the week—if we are good teachers. We chase students around about homework, classwork, quizzes, and tests. We counsel them when they make mistakes and think they can’t go on. We care for them like they’re our own children. Then, we send them home to hopefully do homework, study, and sleep. We start over the next day even if we know they stayed up late playing video games and didn’t do homework.

Given that we are a world that runs on money, teachers need it not only to survive but to hope for more, to fuel their own fire if they’re giving so much of their energies to teaching.

It’s a profession with very raw, concrete value; yet, it’s treated as a volunteer opportunity offering little respect. Why would anyone with an ounce of respect want to teach or even continue to teach then?

We wouldn’t. In fact, any teacher worth their salt and willing to be honest will tell you that he or she contemplated leaving more than once. Many teachers make other plans and go as far as to pack their materials, but they remember their students, their lessons, the challenges that made them better human beings, and they think of the future without dedicated teachers.

We don’t do it for the money, but that’s precisely why teachers, good, hardworking, dedicated teachers, should be paid as much as any professional and respected equally or even more.

What’s interesting though, is that as a writer, editor, graphic artist, and publications specialist, I started out getting paid significantly less than an average public school teacher yet I got a whole lot more respect.

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Religion is in the details.

At the end of the first week back to school in Florida, I stood in a line with moms beaten, worried, and tired. We were from everywhere in Miami. We wore business clothes, jeans, and sweatpants.

The “perfect” mom with the straight, red hair, black V-neck sweater, and pencil skirt raised her eyebrows as the Latina mom in sweatpants rolled her eyes and said, “I finally understand my mom. I used to be so embarrassed when she’d hand out coupons at the counter and now I’m trying to figure out how I’m gonna pay for all this.”

She raised her eyes to the sky as if to say, “Save me! Help me.”

I pulled the plug from my ear, the earphone muffling the depressing music on the speakers at CVS.  “I know. I feel the same,” I said, desperately reaching out to her.

The redhead rolled her eyes again. “It’s crazy. They kill us.”

I looked into their eyes and the week of troubles emptied from my soul. The week of upset, anger, resentment, and fighting left me because I wasn’t alone. I was with women unlike me and just like me.

We knew pain. The kind of pain religious leaders just won’t ever understand.

The kind of pain kids frown at.

The kind of pain only mothers know.

And, my heart emptied.

In those few moments, no one could’ve predicted that my heart would empty. No religious mantra could fix me. But, right there, with women I didn’t even know, my heart emptied.

And, I was free.

Find those moments that free you and recognize them as religious.

They belong to you.

I Remember My Dream

Digging graves, unconsciously, just digging.

Scaring everyone.

Dream
Dream

Dreams…well…they change.

They morph into something scientific, to be dissected or picked apart. Between disillusionment and the idea that you needed to be more than what you should be or than what you really wanted.

You don’t really dig graves. You dream, like every single one of us.

We dream.

It’s what we do.

There’s an echo in it. There’s a peace in it. It’s more real than reality.

So, when I woke one day to find myself digging my own grave.
I remembered my dream.

It had nothing to do with graves. It had everything to do with love and happiness.

There were diagonals, horizontal, spirals, eyes and lips scattered around a field of purple crayon with push pins and buttons chuckling at the silly behavior surrounding the onlooking scrutiny.

Admidst the blur of sanity came a gaffaw of irony.

We dream.

Then, we remember.

It’s always a little late.

But, sometimes. We remember the most important part.

Love.

So…

when you dream,

remember love.

Just like the man who dreamt that graves should be dug. He remembered love and reminded the mother to stay close.

She did.

Then, he remembered the graves.

There was one less.

Sometimes, we just don’t need to talk.

Relationships grow, crumble, fade, part, and regenerate. It’s when they’re quiet that you know you’ve done something right. It’s the kind of quiet where neither one of you needs to talk. You don’t need to ogle each other like teenagers or stare lovingly into each other’s eyes like you desperately can’t live without the other person.

You just move quietly together allowing the other to be, to exist without you, with you, it really doesn’t matter.

Space Clouds
Space Clouds

My husband and I have had these moments and I’ve thought, well, we’ve finally arrived. We’ve made it. We really just don’t need to talk.

We can just float together.

But, he doesn’t see it that way. He wants to talk, as if there’s something wrong with me for not joining in the sea of incessant chatter that bulks up the world around us. I know it’s not all just him. I know that between his coworkers burping on about how people should “talk” and the mounds of general media telling us we need to talk more, he’s bound to agree with them.

Couples must communicate, yes. I do this and that’s when he decides that he’s too busy to talk, which is completely different from what I’m talking about here.

On vacation, he pointed out an older couple who read the newspaper, looked up to check a noise or just enjoy their whereabouts, and ate quietly together, barely talking. He scoffed sarcastically, “You think that’ll be us someday?”

I thought, I hope so.

He said, “They haven’t said a word to each other,” and he said this bitterly. I then realized he needed to talk right now so that he knows that I love him so I tried. I still try. I try to do a lot of listening more than anything. It’s rough because I prefer silence. He doesn’t understand it but he does know how I feel. At least I think he does.

So much of my life consists of talking that I cherish the quiet space between it all. I literally gulp, choking up when I hear the blowing wind against the palms of trees.

Tears build, fall, and drop when I see clouds swirl and that beat that blends with the flap of a bird’s wings. Silence seems to slip through my fingers like water running through the tap. So when I’m wrapped in it, when it surrounds me, I warm myself with it.

It’s not the same as people who stare at the glare of their smart phones and just ignore each other.

Two people appreciating silence seals their bond as if sitting together in a temple or a church. Only, there’s nothing to worship or think about because you’re already there…in heaven.

There’s that breathing, the heavy kind. The kind that you hear right before you fade into each other.

Merging
Merging

Written by Lisa Chesser

The Best Summer Ever

The great part about being a parent is always the intensity with which kids force me to have fun. They bend my perception of myself backwards to a time when I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to stand like that or say those things.

So, here’s what happens when you spend summer with kids.

1. You learn the meaning of freedom. You swim!

Kids see water and jump in. No wondering if their thighs are too fat or if the water’s too cold. They go for it. So, for those of you bent on hibernating, remember, this is summer so swim.

This is me documenting it via Vine…all because of the Weekly Writing Challenge. Thanks for the spark.

2. You make movies.

They don’t just watch movies, they make them. My sister taught them how to think like filmmakers and this is one of their awesome creations with her help.

3. You eat ice cream and you’re messy about it.

The messier the better.
The messier the better.

Everyone was being so neat and nice, so polite. But, my son indulged in his cotton candy ice cream cone and made a mess. I did have to stop him before he got out of control.

4. You build a Lego Ship.

In lieu of homework, mine negotiated a challenge, “We’ll build this Lego ship.” So, they conveniently stretched the construction period out to four days long, but the results speak volumes.

5.  You day dream.

Tilt your head back. Close your eyes or stare off at something in the room or at the ceiling then let your mind wonder to those places we rarely speak of because we’re too busy going from here to there or trying to meet a deadline.

6. You draw or doodle.

Sketching your favorite cartoon or TV character when you should be focusing on work keeps you relaxed and sometimes refocuses you if you’re struggling to finish writing. If you’re listening to someone who’s thoroughly boring, then doodle.

7. You dance.

Dance. Wiggle. Move. And do it often. Smiles follow.

8. You watch Nacho Libre, a lot.

Nacho Libre starring Jack Black became my son’s obsession. Thank God it was a funny one.  Interpreted, this one means find a movie you really like, that makes you so happy you want to see it over and over again and do just that.

9. You’re gross.

Pick your nose and fart if you feel like it. Just promise, don’t be ashamed. Kids never are—at least not during summertime.

10. You sleep, a lot.

Go to bed late. Sleep until noon. Need I say more?

For a double whammy, I’ll use this time to say that I’m so proud of them. Without even knowing it, they’ve managed to give me amazing moments to write about and give you a laugh or two–thank you to the Daily Post Challenge.

The Colors of To Kill A Mockingbird

Screenshot of To Kill a Mockingbird(an America...
Screenshot of To Kill a Mockingbird(an American movie issued in 1962) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every year since I began teaching, my students and I read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee together. They reluctantly open it and groan because after the first page, they almost unanimously claim confusion and therefore annoyance.

By the third chapter, they’re excited, irritated, laughing out loud, and angry. They love reading with a southern accent and can’t believe I’m letting them read a book with so many bad words in it.

That is, until we get to the “N” word, which everyone nervously reads or skips over. We always read a great opinion piece about the “N” word written by Leonard Pitts Jr. first, but that’s not the most controversial part of the book, at least not to my students or me.

The part they struggle with is the whole reason for the novel’s title To Kill A Mockingbird. They want to know why Tom Robinson’s found guilty and ultimately killed. Tom Robinson’s the black man accused of rape, but the evidence clearly shows it was impossible for him to do this. The jury comprised of white farmers remains unfair.

This year, a new element will enter into the inevitable discussion about change—What about Trayvon Martin?

The jury composed of six women appeared very different. The stories changed. Different characters. But, not different colors. There are the colors: it’s all still in black and white.

And, when that question comes:  What about Trayvon Martin?

Suddenly, this room full of lackadaisical sixth graders will boom with anger and upset. And, what will I say?

Nothing.

No, not really, but yes, nothing, in the sense that I won’t give my opinion. I’ll have to let them read news stories and perhaps bring in articles themselves. But, ultimately, it will be up to them to decide what happened.

Mine? I act as a guide, just like with my own children, when they say the whole world is against Trayvon and black people, I say, I’m not sure about that.

Look at the jury, look at what happened, look at the facts, how are things different? How has the law changed? What can we do to change something like this in the future?

Should Zimmerman have had a gun?

Why did Trayvon beat him?

Would Zimmerman be alive and Trayvon be on trial if Zimmerman hadn’t shot him?

What if they were both black?

What if they were both white?

These are questions I don’t think any of us can completely answer. I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to answer this. I struggle with this.

I hate guns and in To Kill A Mockingbird my students learn how much the main character’s father and the lawyer defending Tom Robinson, Atticus Finch, hates them too. He teaches us to walk in someone else’s shoes and to be kind to our enemies.

When Atticus encounters Mrs. Dubose, a decaying hateful woman who likes to call him a “Nigger lover” for defending Tom Robinson, Atticus removes his hat and tells her she looks like a picture. His daughter, Scout says, “It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.”

I’ve been told that I shouldn’t read To Kill A Mockingbird with sixth graders, but now, I know I have to.

I do believe times have changed, but how? What’s changed? Are we better or did we just learn how to play a different game? What kind of game are we playing? Did we just change the rules and create illusions?

I’m not sure, but I know my sixth graders will spend time this year trying to figure it out.

Written by Lisa Chesser

You’re only as good as your enemy. That would be you, mom.

Rolling your eyes at your mother seems a rite of passage for most girls. My daughter rolled her eyes so much lately that I finally rolled mine back at her. Of course, I was extra dramatic about it. I rolled my eyes up with an extended flutter to emphasize the severity of only the white part showing.

She laughed, and her rolling eyes settled into a disdainful stare to match her frustration with my “nagging.” But, there are other sometimes more disturbing behaviors lately:  Telling me to leave her alone then shutting her bedroom door, elbowing me (however lightly) when I try to hug her, saying “Oh Wow,” after I tell her to do something important like homework.

I’d already hurdled the “I hate you,” moments so I figured I could handle being my daughter’s enemy. But, “I hate you” was sharp, loud and over within seconds. These new insults dig into my side, make me feel nauseous, and even bring me to tears.

Inevitably I remember what I did to my own mother. Rolling my eyes being the most memorable of my insults. She would yell, “Don’t you roll your eyes at me!” Then, I’d do it again, just to spite her.

I’ve grown up a lot since then and I hope I’ve learned something. However, like every naïve new mother, I vowed to never be like my mother. Now, when I hear other moms say they won’t be like their mothers, I secretly say, “Good luck with that.”

My mother was terrible. She wore miniskirts to my ultra-conservative Baptist school functions. She divorced two men. She told my friends’ parents to go to hell when they made snide remarks about her inappropriate behavior. She wouldn’t let me go anywhere because she was afraid I’d get hurt. She didn’t come home sometimes for 24 hours because she’d work double shifts as a nurse.

I hated her for all of that and more.

Sometimes, very early in the morning I’d sneak into her cave of a room and kneel next to her bed. I’d listen to her breath and I’d feel sorry for myself because I missed her so much. Then, I’d blow her a very quiet kiss and leave. I wanted her with me, just being my mom, like all the other mom’s at my school.

I know now that if she were around all the time I’d have hated her for that.

Why? Well, she’s my mother, my enemy, my one true love.

It doesn’t make it any less painful to know that while I experience the same with my own daughter. It just keeps me grounded. I know the journey will leave me sore and tired, but love will lock us together.

My mother also snuck into my room late at night bringing me little presents: a pair of earrings, a teddy bear, a kiss. I’d be angry with her for something so I wouldn’t let her know I was awake, but I loved her for visiting me. Deep in my soul, I knew she loved me just as much or more than the “perfect” moms who volunteered at bake sales and coached the cheerleading teams.

Four Generations of Mothers.
Four Generations of Mothers.
It’s been said that they all rolled their eyes at their mother.

Just recently my daughter decided we didn’t need to read together at night anymore like we’ve done even before she began reading on her own. I tried to act like it didn’t bother me, but when I cried myself to sleep for three days in a row, I again felt what my own mother must’ve: a sorrow that only love brings.

I wrote my daughter a note praising her for finding her independence and telling her why I was sad about it, that I would miss it so much and I’d be there for her no matter what changes come.

Within a week, she asked me to read with her again. One night, yes; another night, no.

I remind her that I will always need hugs and she will always be my baby. Those things she must accept. We’ll work out the rest.

She smiles a baby smile, blinks her eyes, and rests her head on my shoulder.

Sometimes, she rolls her eyes.

Written By Lisa Chesser