Teacher Beast


By: Dani Langevin – June, 2012

This has been a particularly difficult work year for me.

It started off with me being taken away the very first day of the school year by ambulance because of heart arrhythmia. Everything checked out fine and I haven’t had another episode since. Two weeks later I missed several days of school because of a kidney infection. Last month I ended up in the hospital for four days with pancreatitis thanks to a microscopic gall stone that decided to vacation in my pancreas. Every time I was in the hospital I called into work because of the shear guilt I felt for not being there for my students. For those of you who are parents, you may understand what this guilt is like. As a teacher, the emotions for my students are not much different than those for my own children. I want them to be happy, I want them to succeed and I get defensive when people or events prevent this from happening. This is the nature of the teacher beast.

When I am out and about and I strike up conversations with strangers and reveal that I am a teacher the reaction is ALWAYS the same, “God bless you. I don’t know how you do it,” or, “Really? That’s awesome. They don’t pay you people enough.” I have NEVER been verbally assaulted to my face with the comments I have read in newspaper commentaries, Twitter accounts, blogs or feedback on our wonderfully biased local newspaper the Eagle Tribune that say things like, “Teacher’s are money grubbers. They get three vacations a school year and the summers off and still want a raise,” “Teachers need to suffer like the rest of us. They are simply glorified babysitters,” or “They should get raises based on student performance.”

Recently I was reading the online reactions to the botched voting for the Union Presidential elections and one respondent was skewering the Methuen public school system and its teachers, but needed to add that her children’s teachers have all been ‘excellent’. Lucky her. She should play the lottery.

77% of parents give their child’s school and teachers a grade of “A” or “B”. However, when asked to grade our nation’s public school system as a whole only 18% assign those high grades. This means that most American parents do not believe our nation’s public school system is providing our children with a good education. Now how can this be? How can most American parents believe that their own child’s school is average to above average, but our nation’s schools are below average? It doesn’t add up.

Is it possible that parents do not want to believe that their own child’s school is not up to its muster? Are they placating themselves into believing that their town’s school system is really more than its cracked up to be so that they can feel good each time they put their child on the bus and wave goodbye or drop them off at the school’s doorstep? Or is it that their school and its teachers really are doing a great job but it’s actually the state tests that are flawed. It’s quite a conundrum.

So, once again, I have to ask: Which is it? Are we underpaid heroes or overpaid babysitters? Why the vacillating? And what of the parents role in all of this?

Children spend 30% of their time in school. This means the majority of time is spent out of school with friends and family. Statistics have proven that children perform better in school when parents are directly involved with their education. Do you hear that parents? It’s not just the teacher’s job to educate your child; you need to be involved, too. Sure, we may have the master’s degrees and be highly qualified in our subject matter, but you are supposed to know your child and fill in the holes that we cannot during the 70% of the time they are not in front of us. Decades of research has proven that when parents take an active role in their children’s lives they: receive higher test scores, are less likely to get involved with drugs, alcohol or violent behavior, have better attendance, and higher self-esteem just to name a few.

What I would like to see are research results on the impact state testing has had on children in regards to the above factors. Children do not develop equally. There is no test that ALL students of the same age can take at the same time and get the same results. It’s ludicrous. I’m five feet tall, in great shape and very athletic. However, you can have the best coaches in the world train me for years and I will never run 100 meters in 10.49 seconds, the current women’s world record.

Our children are not cattle. We cannot line them up, feed them the same information and have them weigh in equally. There are too many variables. What needs to be constant for their success is that highly qualified teachers continue to do their job in educating our children and parents are involved with their education and upbringing, as well. And neither of us should be pointing fingers at one another for the failure of our children. I will continue to care, fight, and claw my way through every school day and year to provide the best education for every one of my students even if it means doing so from a hospital bed.