“Do Teachers Get a Break?”
One of the difficulties we have as faculty is that it is hard to communicate what we do when we are not in the classroom. For example, my neighbor was so sad that I had to go onto campus today “on your day off.” Because the semester is over and I am not required to be in the classroom this week, she works on the assumption that I am on vacation–a point of view held by many people. But I know that the week between Winter and Spring semester is a busy one. Not only do we have to finish grades from last semester, we also use this week to make the final preparations for Spring semester.
As faculty members, we do have more control over our time than most workers do. It is a wonderful perk. Yet control over time is not the same as not having to work. However, it is hard to explain to people the hard work we do while sitting at home in our jammies
Many years ago when I was still in graduate school and doing consulting work, I lost a friendship over this misunderstanding. My friend frequently wanted to get together for breakfast; something that my work did not permit me to do. However, because I was at home, she could not recognize that I was working and took it personally. She reacted as if I didn’t want to have breakfast with her. We had a mutual friend with a more traditional job. She would never expect to have breakfast with him while he was working. Yet she could not recognize the fact that I, too, was working. Unfortunately, the situation ended with the end of our friendship.
If close friends cannot understand our schedules, how can we expect the general publish to understand what we do?
Today I read Peggy Noonan’s “America’s Crisis in Character” (Wall Street Journal, 21 April 2012) in which she cites the example of how difficult it is to fire teachers who act irresponsibly.
In New York the past week a big story has been about 16 public school teachers who can’t be fired even though they’ve acted unprofessionally. What does “unprofessionally” mean in New York? Sex with students, stalking students, and, in one case, a standing behind a kid, simulating sex, and saying, “I’ll show you what gay is.”
Even though these teachers are not representative of the teaching profession, their conduct is newsworthy. Yet, what is not newsworthy–because it is so typical–is how the colleague with whom I was chatting in Facebook and I are spending our semester break. We are representative of the vast majority of faculty members and, therefore, what we do is not newsworthy.
[Note: Because I did not capture the image from Facebook until May 9, the “hours ago” are not consistent with the May 8 posting. Sometimes, I type my reflection from my notes the next day; something I did on May 9 for my May 8 reflection ]