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South Dakota educators scrambling to pick up $1 bills in a hockey game sideshow. (Photo: Screenshot)

The Ongoing Humiliation of Underpaid Teachers Is a National Disgrace

The disrespect for teachers has been a fact of our society for decades.

Steven Singer

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to joke that he got no respect.
 
For this punchline to work today he'd probably have to be a teacher.
 
Because few other professions are less appreciated.
 
A viral video making the rounds on social media shows South Dakota educators scrambling to pick up $1 bills in a hockey game sideshow. 
 
This was an opportunity for them to grab a few hundred dollars to buy school supplies for their classrooms. 
 
Can you imagine any other professional doing that? 

Lawyers giving foot rubs so their clients can get an appeal. Doctors grubbing on a bathroom floor for their patients' pain pills. Police squeezing into a cash grab booth to fund new bullet proof vests. 

Nope. It would never happen because these careers are held in high esteem. And you can tell that based on their salaries and/or the resources provided to do their jobs. 

But teachers… We seem to have a perpetual "Kick Me" sign taped to our backs.
 
We're underpaid given the years of schooling necessary for employment.
 
We're given huge classes and few supplies. (In fact, we're expected to buy pencils, books, tissues—whatever our students need.) 
 
We're scapegoated for every social ill in the country but whenever it comes time to find solutions, we're ignored completely in favor of tech billionaires many of whom dropped out of school and "earned" their fortunes based on loans from rich parents or corporate welfare. 
 
But somehow WE have to grovel on the floor to scrape together enough money to take care of other people's kids.
 
It makes me want to throw up. 

I can almost hear the reality show TV producers queuing up to make pitches for their next project. 
 
"How about this? Teachers trapped in the woods have to take each other out with paint guns and the last one gets a new set of textbooks!"
 
"What'll we call it?"

"How about The Hungry for Education… er… Games?" 

"I've got a better one. We have high school biology teachers compete for a chance to pay off their student loans by answering trivia questions about marine biology…" 

"Yeah and we could call it Squid… er… Game?" 

"Try this one on for size. Teachers competing in a marathon to win a HEPA filter to reduce Covid-19 in their classrooms …" 

"Ooooh! We could call it The Running… er… Man?" 

I'd say this is post-apocalyptic humor but there's nothing post about our pandemic world.

The disrespect for teachers has been a fact of our society for decades

The University of Pittsburgh made headlines recently for bringing back its undergraduate teaching program. For the last 30 years the school only offered masters or higher teaching degrees. But now that so few college students are entering the field, the university thought it made sense to entice them with the relatively lower cost of undergraduate classes.  

To which I thought—yeah but who is going to apply? 

Who wants a job that requires you to be a rodeo clown?
 
Who wants to have to mortify themselves in the Circus Maximus?
 
"Are you not entertained!?"

"Come one, come all—to be underappreciated, underpaid and overworked!" 

"Hurry! Hurry! HURRY to proctor standardized tests for poor students and be judged by their low socioeconomic test scores!" 

"Gather Round! Gather Round! The one! The only job that takes a genuine calling to help kids learn and makes you so miserable you'll run away screaming!" 

Undergraduate classes won't be enough. 

We need structural solutions to the problem:  

Money

Autonomy

Respect

And in the meantime: 

Less Paperwork

Reduced case load

Dedicated planning periods

But the problem goes deep.  

We live in a country where a significant percentage of the population is skeptical of the value of education.  

They don't want anyone to challenge their preconceptions about race, religion, economics, politics, science, history! No wonder they hate teachers so much! 

We might inspire their kids to have an original thought!  

We might light the flame that would burn down a different path, and if there's one thing these people hate, it's difference.  

The worst thing in the world for some folks is raising kids that aren't carbon copies of their example.  

So why not degrade teachers at every opportunity?  

Why not have them panhandle for cash instead of funding their classrooms? 

Why not have them hustle and scrounge to make their jobs even slightly bearable? 

Why not have them beg, borrow and steal for the slightest fraction of economic viability?  

Because the less attractive we make the job, the fewer people who'll apply.  

As a society that suits us just fine. 

Humiliating teachers is about avoiding humiliation. 

For those who refuse to be educated. 


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Steven Singer

Steven Singer

Steven Singer is a husband, father, teacher, blogger and education advocate. Singer is an 8th grade Language Arts teacher in western Pennsylvania. He is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher and has an MAT from the University of Pittsburgh. He is Director of the Research and Blogging Committee for the Badass Teachers Association. He is co-founder of the Pennsylvania-based education budget advocacy group T.E.A.C.H. (Tell Everyone All Cuts Hurt). He often writes at his own blog, gadflyonthewallblog.com.

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