Florida Teacher's Essay Becomes Rallying Cry for Respect

By Cynthia McCabe

When people were attacking her and her fellow dedicated public school teachers, Florida fourth-grade teacher Jamee Miller got mad. And then she got to typing.

The result? An essay called “I Am a Teacher” which caught fire in recent weeks on Facebook and blogs as supporters of teachers attacked by budget-slashing lawmakers and critics trying to score political points took it to heart and then took it online. (Full essay text appears at bottom.)

Shawna Christenson, a teacher in West Palm Beach, Fla., wrote on Facebook after posting it to her own profile last week: “Some folks need to be reminded that we do so much more than leave and enter when the bell rings when they think achievement is the only way to measure us.”

Miller, a National Education Association and Florida Education Association member who has been teaching for seven years, wrote the essay a year ago largely for herself and then put it away. But when the controversial Senate Bill 6 was recently careening through the GOP-controlled legislature, she dusted it off and posted it on Facebook. Education experts said SB6, which Gov. Charlie Crist ultimately vetoed last week to support teachers, would have made Florida one of the most teacher-hostile states in the country. Even though it was vetoed, similar anti-teacher efforts are cropping up in other states from like-minded opponents.

“I was just getting so enraged because there was such ignorance from the people attacking teachers,” says Miller. “Especially these misconceptions about what it is we can actually control as educators.”

Her essay, which in recent weeks was referenced on the Florida House floor, reprinted by several Florida newspapers and went viral online, has taken on a life of its own, Miller says. ”What I’m saying isn’t unique. It’s just that the heart of that message resonates with everyone in our world.”

That’s because in the past year they’ve been slammed by a troubling development: political opportunists attacking public education professionals.

“I feel more than ever I have to be on the defensive to prove I’m not a bad teacher,” she says. “It’s really unfortunate. Even five years ago it was assumed a teacher was great until a teacher wasn’t doing their job.”

And when critics broadly paint today’s teachers as ineffective, there’s no better way to show how wrong they are than pointing to Miller’s own resume. She was Seminole County Teacher of the Year in 2008. Each year she spends $1,000 of her own money on classroom supplies and her students. Last year, she and her husband donated $30,000 to create a fellowship at the University of Florida that helps elementary education majors working toward a master’s degree in education technology.

One of the more noxious provisions of SB6 that upset Miller and her colleagues was a mandate that standardized testing be the primary basis for teachers’ employment, certification and salary. In Florida, students are subjected to a high-stakes test called the FCAT. The law would have further reduced children to a test score and ignored that their lives and their achievements are more complex and nuanced than that.

“To have all that I pour into my students every year come down to just one test is so frustrating,” Miller says. “I have zero problems with accountability. But come into my classroom. I’m eager to show you the realities.”

For instance, this past year, Miller’s realities included having a student who missed 30 days of school, a student whose parents were arrested right before the standardized test day, and a third student who vomitted on her test booklet and was unable to retake it.

What teachers who contact her with their heartfelt thanks want to convey is that they’re just as concerned about the state of public education as anyone else.

“We all want education to be fixed, we just want to be in on that problem solving,” Miller says.

Full text of Jamee Miller’s “I Am a Teacher” essay:

I am a teacher in Florida.

I rise before dawn each day and find myself nestled in my classroom hours before the morning commute is in full swing in downtown Orlando. I scour the web along with countless other resources to create meaningful learning experiences for my 24 students each day. I reflect on the successes of lessons taught and re-work ideas until I feel confident that they will meet the needs of my diverse learners. I have finished my third cup of coffee in my classroom before the business world has stirred. My contracted hours begin at 7:30 and end at 3:00. As the sun sets around me and people are beginning to enjoy their dinner, I lock my classroom door, having worked 4 hours unpaid.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I greet the smiling faces of my students and am reminded anew of their challenges, struggles, successes, failures, quirks, and needs. I review their 504s, their IEPs, their PMPs, their histories trying to reach them from every angle possible. They come in hungry—I feed them. They come in angry—I counsel them. They come in defeated—I encourage them. And this is all before the bell rings.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am told that every student in my realm must score on or above grade level on the FCAT each year. Never mind their learning discrepancies, their unstable home lives, their prior learning experiences. In the spring, they are all assessed with one measure and if they don’t fit, I have failed. Students walk through my doors reading at a second grade level and by year’s end can independently read and comprehend early 4th grade texts, but this is no matter. One of my students has already missed 30 school days this year, but that is overlooked. If they don’t perform well on this ONE test in early March, their learning gains are irrelevant. They didn’t learn enough. They didn’t grow enough. I failed them. In the three months that remain in the school year after this test, I am expected to begin teaching 5th grade curriculum to my 4th grade students so that they are prepared for next year’s test.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am expected to create a culture of students who will go on to become the leaders of our world. When they exit my classroom, they should be fully equipped to compete academically on a global scale. They must be exposed to different worldviews and diverse perspectives, and yet, most of my students have never left Sanford, Florida. Field trips are now frivolous. I must provide new learning opportunities for them without leaving the four walls of our classroom. So I plan. I generate new ways to expose them to life beyond their neighborhoods through online exploration and digital field trips. I stay up past The Tonight Show to put together a unit that will allow them to experience St. Augustine without getting on a bus. I spend weekends taking pictures and creating a virtual world for them to experience, since the State has determined it is no longer worthwhile for them to explore reality. Yes. My students must be prepared to work within diverse communities, and yet they are not afforded the right to ever experience life beyond their own town.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I accepted a lower salary with the promise of a small increase for every year taught. I watched my friends with less education than me sign on for six figure jobs while I embraced my $28k starting salary. I was assured as I signed my contract that although it was meager to start, my salary would consistently grow each year. That promise has been broken. I’m still working with a meager salary, and the steps that were contracted to me when I accepted a lower salary are now deemed “unnecessary.”

I am a teacher in Florida.

I spent $2500 in my first year alone to outfit an empty room so that it would promote creative thinking and a desire to learn and explore. I now average between $1000-2000 that I pay personally to supplement the learning experiences that take place in my classroom. I print at home on my personal printer and have burned through 12 ink cartridges this school year alone. I purchase the school supplies my students do not have. I buy authentic literature so my students can be exposed to authors and worlds beyond their textbooks. I am required to teach Social Studies and Writing without any curriculum/materials provided, so I purchase them myself. I am required to conduct Science lab without Science materials, so I buy those, too. The budgeting process has determined that copies of classroom materials are too costly, so I resort to paying for my copies at Staples, refusing to compromise my students’ education because high-ranking officials are making inappropriate cuts. It is February, and my entire class is out of glue sticks. Since I have already spent the $74 allotted to me for warehouse supplies, if I don’t buy more, we will not have glue for the remainder of the year. The projects I dream up are limited by the incomprehensible lack of financial support. I am expected to inspire my students to become lifelong learners, and yet we don’t have the resources needed to nurture their natural sense of wonder if I don’t purchase them myself. My meager earning is now pathetic after the expenses that come with teaching effectively.

I am a teacher in Florida.

The government has scolded me for failing to prepare my students to compete in this
technologically driven world. Students in Japan are much more equipped to think progressively with regards to technology. Each day, I turn on the two computers afforded me and pray for a miracle. I apply for grants to gain new access to technology and compete with thousands of other teachers who are hoping for the same opportunity. I battle for the right to use the computer lab and feel fortunate if my students get to see it once a week. Why don’t they know how to use technology? The system’s budget refuses to include adequate technology in classrooms; instead, we are continually told that dry erase boards and overhead projectors are more than enough.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am expected to differentiate my instruction to meet the needs of my 24 learners. Their IQs span 65 points, and I must account for every shade of gray. I must challenge those above grade level, and I must remediate those below. I am but one person within the classroom, but I must meet the needs of every learner. I generate alternate assessments to accommodate for these differences. My higher math students receive challenge work, and my lower math students receive one-on-one instruction. I create most of these resources myself, after-hours and on weekends. I print these resources so that every child in my room has access to the same knowledge, delivered at their specific level. Yesterday, the school printer that I share with another teacher ran out of ink. Now I must either purchase a new ink cartridge for $120, or I cannot print anything from my computer for the remainder of the year. What choice am I left with?

I am a teacher in Florida.

I went to school at one of the best universities in the country and completed undergraduate and graduate programs in Education. I am a master of my craft. I know what effective teaching entails, and I know how to manage the curriculum and needs of the diverse learners in my full inclusion classroom. I graduated at the top of my class and entered my first year of teaching confident and equipped to teach effectively. Sadly, I am now being micro-managed, with my instruction dictated to me. I am expected to mold “out-of-the-box” thinkers while I am forced to stay within the lines of the instructional plans mandated by policy-makers. I am told what I am to teach and when, regardless of the makeup of my students, by decision-makers far away from my classroom or even my school. The message comes in loud and clear that a group of people in business suits can more effectively determine how to provide exemplary instruction than I can. My expertise is waved away, disregarded, and overlooked. I am treated like a day-laborer, required to follow the steps mapped out for me, rather than blaze a trail that I deem more appropriate and effective for my students—students these decision-makers have never met.

I am a teacher in Florida.

I am overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated by most. I spend my weekends, my vacations, and my summers preparing for school, and I constantly work to improve my teaching to meet the needs of my students. I am being required to do more and more, and I’m being compensated less and less.

I am a teacher in Florida, not for the pay or the hardships, the disregard or the disrespect; I am a teacher in Florida because I am given the chance to change lives for the good, to educate and elevate the minds and hearts of my students, and to show them that success comes in all shapes and sizes, both in the classroom and in the community.

I am a teacher in Florida today, but as I watch many of my incredible, devoted coworkers being forced out of the profession as a matter of survival, I wonder: How long will I be able to remain a teacher in Florida?

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  • Ralph Rodriguez

    One of my daughters is an elementary school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Another daughter is bent on becoming a music teacher in probably the same district. I know all too well what teachers spend out of their pockets just to be able to have supplies for which the district should be paying.
    The teaching profession is the only job I know of in which a person must pay the district in order to maintain their position.
    When and where did we lose respect for our teachers? When did we stop valuing what they do?
    Why aren’t administrators and school boards evaluated similarly as teachers? How many of them would fail to attain an acceptable performance level?

  • Eric

    I fear that Mrs. Miller as an exceptional teacher and dedicated professional is in the minority. That being said, I think that could be said for just about any profession. It’s hard to find truly dedicated people like her and good on her for sticking up for what she believes in. Too bad we don’t have more like here educating our kids. I suspect that perhaps that is why you see much of the sentiment you do regarding this issue. I can remember when Texas implemented the test for teachers (can’t recall now what it was called, TCAT?)that required them to pass literacy and other competency tests. What we found out was that a lot of teachers were not qualified to even be teaching and it eliminated many who would otherwise be responsible for the education of our children. What’s the solution? I don’t know except for maybe praying that more people like Mrs. Miller enter into the education profession and apply the same level of dedication that she does.

  • Jamee’s essay spoke to me when I saw it painstakingly posted in snippets on Facebook during the early days of SB6. I am proud to have helped spark the viral trend of this post. She speaks for all teachers.

  • I am a music teacher in Maryland and have been saying for the past 3-4 years teachers need to take back the classroom. It is disheartening to see my colleagues and students stressed out by one test, the MSA every March. The stress starts in September, escalates in January and runs through the end of April. We are searching for ways to improve the test scores. I feel that by going back and teaching the basics, allowing more than 20 minutes of recess a day and being allowed to TEACH will help raise our students performance.

    Educators are not considered the experts when it comes to education. It’s corporations (text book publishers and like companies included), parents, policy-makers and the some PhD’s who have not been in the K-12 classroom for years, sometimes decades.

    Everything I have been saying and feeling has been expressed by Jamee in her essay. It is time to take this to the steps of the Capital in Washington. All our voices need to be heard by the nation.

  • SchoolNurse10

    This teacher is an angel that walks among us. As a school nurse I can attest that I tool LOVE and HATE my job all at the same time. Yes, we are overworked and underpaid. When I accepted my position as a school nurse I was told the starting salary (it is 1/3 of what I could make in a hospital) yet I agreed. I made a choice that money is not as important as the care that I can give the students who are less than fortunate to have care at home. While I do empathize with teachers I am sure there rewards will come later when those students they so diligently taught are as a result better citizens in our society. Teachers, hang in there, you have hearts that are made of gold and while you don’t hear it on a daily basis you are wonderful and anyone who knows what a teacher does, also knows that we can NEVER begin to pay you what you are actually worth!
    GOD BLESS YOU each and everyone!

  • Salesman from CA

    While I appreciate the frustration that this teach has (my mom is a teacher also), you have to realize that MANY MANY jobs are tougher. Do you know why I know this? Because everyone still wants to be a teacher!

    How much you get paid is correctly a supply/demand thing in a capitalist economy like we have. Being in sales my whole life, I have spent my entire career buying things to help sales presentations, certifications, continuing education, computers, projectors, out of my own pocket. $2,000 is nothing. And just like a teacher can, I got to write them off on my taxes and factored them in before accepting any job I applied for.

    But unlike a teacher, sales professionals (and most other people in the real world) are judged by quotas and meeting yearly, monthly, and even weekly goals with no guarantees of future employment. I regularly punch out and work off the clock because we get yelled at for overtime, and when I was salaried, there is no clock, you are working 24/7 to get the project done on time and keep your job.

    For waaaaaay too long teachers had no oversight, motivation, or urgency to teach well. There was no way to tell the good teachers from the bad teachers on paper. Maybe the new measures aren’t exactly perfected yet, but we need a way of sorting through the good and bad teachers and standardized testing is the best way. I haven’t heard a teacher come up with a better way yet or it would be in place.

    And when you are thinking about all the bosses who are constantly breathing down your neck for results and setting unreasonable goals, just realize that is exactly how everyone else in the US (that isn’t working for the government at least) is working too! Welcome to the world that all of us have been living in! 🙂

    If you are at a school that isn’t funding your needs well enough, then pick up and go to a school that can meet those needs. In this day and age, we are all free agents. Most people in the real world stay 3-5 years at a job and then move up to a larger/better company with more pressure for performance and more pay. I see great teachers being hired at the elite private schools out here in CA for $80K and more, so I know it is possible. All the kids at those schools have their own new computers because their parents pay a ton of money to make sure they have the best education possible.

    If you are unable or afraid to move to another school, then try another career with your education that pays better. Didn’t you read what teachers make BEFORE you decided to become a teacher?

    The answer isn’t to lower standards or work teachers less. The answer is to get the best teachers to be paid by the parents who pay to give their kids the best education.

    You wouldn’t pay an architect $80K to design a $60K house, but $80K is nothing to design a $5 mil house.

    Like any other profession, you should work your tail off for 5 years at the bottom and show your skill and move up to better schools when the opportunities arise.

    Be glad you have a job at all in this economy and enjoy your 1/4 of the year off summer vacation on the beach in FL that no one else in the country has.

    Do I think poor kids don’t deserve to be educated? Of course they do. But do I think that giving poor kids young new teachers just out of school and trying to prove themselves means that those have to be bad teachers? Of course not. They might be some of the best ones. But the ones who have proven over time to get the best results from kids deserve to be paid better and the only way to do that is through private schools and private money. Throwing more money at bad teachers in an ALREADY CROWED FIELD (teaching) is idiotic.

    You know I speak the truth.

  • John

    I agree with some of what’s been posted. I think that many jobs are very difficult and I pay out of pocket for things as well. I work at a nonprofit. Our offices are dismal, our technology is outdated, and we spend all day at the computer and in the office.

    But I think that if we allow the market to determine the quality of our teachers, then we’ll end up like Afghanistan–where poverty has grown terrible and so entrenched, that violence will be a better option for young men and women than getting a job and raising a family.

    Teacher quality should be equal across all family income levels.

  • TA in MI

    Salesman in CA, did you really read all of this and just think this dedicated professional is just whining because she doesn’t make enough money? Or because her job is hard? Of course it’s hard. It’s rewarding, too.
    As a grad student whose education is funded by teaching entry-level courses, I don’t have to put up with one millionth of the BS public school teachers have to put up with. Teachers should be accountable, but they should be observed in what they actually do, not judged on what number their kids hit on a stupid standardized test. Comparing that assessment system for teachers to hitting sales numbers in your world isn’t even an apples to oranges comparison…it’s more like apples to…carburetors; they’re not related in ANY way. If you really can’t see that, maybe your teachers in school did fail you.

  • MI Teacher

    AMAZING!!!! I am a teacher from Michigan. I could probably change less than 20 words in this essay and it would apply to me. I hope this gets out.

  • Salesman from CA

    In an ideal world, all people would be equally rich, everyone would be given the same great cars, everyone would marry an intelligent supermodel and be equally beautiful themselves. But that isn’t reality. In reality, employers pay as little as they can for a service, parents aren’t going to fork out big bucks to go to an average school, and there are only so many ways to judge a kid from one part of the state to another part without using standardized tests.

    People are different. Some are better than others. I went to average public school in a rural area where the average home is $75K. Looking back, most of my teachers were pretty bad and just read to us out of the book. Most of them should have been fired and might have been if it wasn’t for stupid unions, but I made due. Then I went to an expensive top 25 school for college and had great teachers. With 0 support from my family, so any poor kid can do the same.

    It is up to the students and parents to decide what to take from the learning experience – even if they don’t have the latest books and computers. Throwing money at bad teachers and students who don’t want to learn isn’t going to help anything. Take what you have and make the most of it. If you don’t like where you work, then don’t work there.

    But getting the best and brightest students with the best and brightest teachers is a good idea. Most of my teacher friends that I hear complaining are just new to the field (less than 5 years). Put in your dues at the bottom just like every other profession and move on/up to better schools/positions. If you aren’t moving up, then you probably aren’t as good of a teacher as you think you are. I’ve never met a teacher who thinks they are horrible at their job (or even below average), but there are many many many of them out there.

    Do you not think that salespeople and business people have numerical goals to hit? Do you not think that some of those numbers are achieved on an unequal basis? Things such as favoritism, better leads, better markets in some cities than other places, uncontrollable outside influences like the economy, etc etc?

    If I was a top notch school with lots of money to spend on a great teacher, I wouldn’t be looking at the test scores of kids to judge a teacher, but I would be looking to see how much the individual test scores jumped from the previous year (or dropped from the previous year).

    Even better yet, have the best teachers record their teachings and send the feed out to classrooms all over the country. And then just have assistants in the classrooms to answer questions. But wait, I guess that would put many teachers out of a job and we wouldn’t want that, right? Even if it helped the kids?

    I would just stop whining if I was a teacher and do my job. We all have bosses breathing down our throats and making unreasonable demands. The only difference is that we don’t have guaranteed lifetime employment from the union and summers off like teachers do.


    John says:
    April 28, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Teacher quality should be equal across all family income levels.

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  • Kim

    Salesman in CA, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is? Be a teacher. I’m not a teacher, but I have a lot of friends that are teachers and none of them work less than 10 hours per day and none of them just sit on a beach during the summer. I think everyone that thinks that being a teacher is easy should have to do it for a year.

  • DSL

    The first word that comes to mind after reading Ms. Miller’s essay is, “Amen”! I possess a B.S. and a J.D. and I’m currently pursuing a M.A in education. I’m a lifelong leaner and strive to provide my students with every opportunity to be college prepared and career ready. I’m a dedicated, compassionate hard-working teacher with the Los Angeles Unified District who was rewarded this year with “furlough”. I came back to this once beloved noble profession 4 years ago (after years higher education administration) because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of impressionable young minds. However, I wonder if I’ll be able to sustain my dedication and compassion when I’m homeless and waiting in line at a local soup kitchen.

  • Marci Gottfried

    Both of my children have had the privilege of being taught by Mrs Miller. My daughter was in her class when she on teacher of the year and my son has her now for 4th grade. My kids have had some really good teachers over the years but I will tell you Mrs Miller is truly a GREAT TEACHER. The woman could do anything yet she chooses to be a teacher and our children are better for the choice that she made. All the kudos that her essay is receiving is are truly deserved. Thank you Mrs Miller for all that you have done for my children and all the kids that have had the privilege of being in your class

  • christine ehlers

    Hey Jamee,

    Just wanted to take a minute to thank you for ALL the teachers in America. Those outside of our field just don’t get it. They probably never will. That essay is awesome. Those children/that whole district is soooo very lucky to have you.!! Congratulations!!!!YHDR

  • Reinhart

    I have to agree with Salesman from CA – although it’s too bad your website hides his comments. It’s a tough, unfair world out there. While the metrics are uneven and not always equitably applied, you get judged by your performance – not your effort. Grow up.

    Now MY comments will get hidden.

  • Mark

    Great essay! I hope she has enough passion for teaching to get past the myopia of GOP education policy. After all, she’s just teaching America’s future…with the handicap of poor parenting.

    I think before we pay/fire teachers primarily on the grade of their students, we should do the same for politicians for how well they perform to the goals they promise us during the election. Seems fair to me.

  • I am always thankful for teachers who take on the full challenge to educate all of their students. I sincerely appreciate the courses I have been able to take in instructional design, creative education, and educational philosophy. I diligently hope to encounter more educators who can open the secrets of unlocking students’ potentials, even though many of my colleagues why I waste time with high school students and undergraduates. I hope that we get better at determining how students learn and progress so as to enable creative, innovative, and capable individuals.

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  • I would ask all of those who have posed comments about how the “Real World” works to consider this. What if those for whom you are responsible for and for which your job depended were to be tested on how well they performed based on your interactions with them. They would experience absolutely no reprecussions from the results, so many of them would answer falsely on the test, fill in the answer dots to resemble pictures, or just blow it off completely because they felt like it. There are so many other scenarios, yet what is also important here is that you would have absolutely no idea that they were doing this, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to change the assessment the people over you give you based on this test. More importantly, your department, (school), will receive less funding based on those results.

    So you are correct,… we as teachers do not live in the “real world”. An impossible fantasy might describe it.

  • Joe Shmoe

    Here is a major point about standardized testing that many non-teachers seem to miss:
    What is the incentive for a student to make an effort on one of these tests? The tests don’t count towards a grade, college, graduation or much else for that matter. Would you put in a large amount of work and effort for several hours a day, for four consecutive days if there was no apparent benefit in you doing so?

  • Linda

    I have tears in my eyes from reading Jamee’s essay. She said everything I’ve been feeling but dare not say to my administrators. I’ve been an art teacher for 9 years. When I first started teaching I felt a wonderful sense of appreciation from everyone in the school community and a liberating sense of freedom to design engaging curriculum. In recent years I’ve become isolated and overworked with dwindling prep time, combined classes coming to art, supplies running out months before the year ends, top-down mandates and principals who fail to see the higher order thinking and depth of knowledge happening in my room. I so identify with Jamee’s feelings of being a cog in the machine, a piece of furniture to be moved around. My master’s program taught me about being a teacher-leader. Yet all my district wants is for us to shut up and do our jobs. Teachers are not the enemy. We teach because it is the noblest profession there is.

  • Ann Oakes

    1. Great essay!
    2. Teachers, parents, students & Americans: Start writing essays! Send them to your state reps, senators and all politicians and stakeholders.
    3. Teachers: Assign essays to students titled ” What Happens When Nobody Cares About Education or How Does a Democracy Function Without Education. Then publicize them; display them in libraries ( if they’re not cut), city hall, newspapers, internet etc
    4. All Teacher Associations: Support Florida Teachers; they need your help.

  • Cyndi

    Those who are not teachers have no idea what it is like on a daily basis to teach children who stay up until all hours of the night, don’t do their homework, sleep in class, talk in class, are absent 30% of the time, etc. And the incentive to do well on the standardized tests only comes into play when their graduation depends on passing the test. I am being evaluated on the one that rates our schools but the student doesn’t have to pass that one to graduate. Several of the commentors are right, we don’t live in the real-world. I worked for 23 years in the corporate and military world before becoming a teacher and teaching is the hardest job I have held. The politicos have torn us down so much that no one respects us any more (especially the parents) which has caused a break-down in the respect from the students. All I can say is, I have walked a mile in “salesman’s shoes”, I invite you to walk a mile in mine. I love my job, it has been the most rewarding I have ever held. But the last few years with all the political machinations have worn me out.

  • michele

    Thank you for writing your essay. Now I won’t have to try and find the time to write mine. It was going to be titled, “At least you have your summer off.” After 20 years of teaching I finally used a notebook to log my hours of work. I am in my 32 week of the teaching year, and have already calculated 17 weeks (586 hours and 30 minutes) of overtime. (I wouldn’t mind making ‘time and 1/2’ like most of my non-teaching friends do when they put in overtime.) After 17 weeks of overtime, I have not only worked through my summer, winter and spring breaks, but put in an additional 3 weeks work of overtime already. I have 4 more weeks left of teaching for the school year. This will include approximately 18 additional hours per week. After a week off to prepare for teaching summer school, I will teach 5 weeks of summer school. This summer I will also take to Grad. classes toward my masters degree and license renewal requirements. I will go back to my building at least the week before school starts in the fall to prepare for the new school year.
    Thank you for your essay. Now I can sleep at night knowing that it has been “said!”

  • Shelley

    Salesman in CA and Reinhart… so who taught you? Are you self-educated? I knew a kid whose home-schooled “teacher” (parent) wanted to be sure the kid didn’t fail because he had done poorly in the public school system so she “coached” him through his tests; i.e., she verbally quizzed him and when he gave a wrong answer, she growled. She kept growling until he got the right answer… poor kid didn’t learn a thing except how to guess. He then asked to go back to public school and graduated in 2008. The last I heard, he is serving in the US Navy. When he decided to try in school, he got it. Teachers don’t necessarily made a lot of money… but they do MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

  • Pat

    Salesmen sell items which have undergone a quality control process. They are not expected to sell substandard items, or they won’t have a job. I cannot control the quality of students who come into my class room, but I must produce standardized perfection of every student when I have them for a whopping 55 minutes a day. Non-teachers will never get it. Quit wasting your breath.

  • Jeff

    I worked in the “real world” for thirteen years (biotech for five years and software for eight) before making the switch to teaching seven years ago. I’ve found that being an effective teacher is much harder than being an effective chemist or software programmer.

    Also, industry generally supports its workers. In industry, if you don’t have the resources you need to get a job done, you negotiate with your boss–explain what you can do with the resources that are available and what additional resources you need to do the job fully. Your boss makes a decision to either allocate more resources or change the scope as dictated by the situation. In education, all resources are already over-committed, there isn’t enough funding, and the scope of the job is mandated by law and cannot be changed. Teachers can’t discuss the things that aren’t getting done, because many of these things are mandated by law, failing to do any of them is a crime, and knowingly admitting to not doing them things makes the crime premeditated. So there are elephants in every room. We pretend they don’t exist and go on teaching our classes.

    I’ve experienced a lot of the same frustrations that Jamee so eloquently describes in her essay. However, unlike Jamee, I am not wondering how long I can continue to be a teacher in Massachusetts. I love and believe in what I do, and I *will* find a way to continue to make it work.

    I believe that the following essay, which I wrote and posted to a web forum in 2006, captures the flip side–the things that make the profession worthwhile, at least for me.


    Why do I teach? I love working with teenagers. I love their idealism. I love their attitude.

    I love the way they demand that I make their time in my class worthwhile, even if they’re only there because it’s a required class. I love the genuine excitement when they master a new concept or skill. I love it when we discuss something that most of the adult population would find too difficult to even begin to contemplate and the kids say “Wow, that’s really simple.” I love their expectation that everything they learn is supposed to somehow help them make the world better once they’re out of school. I love watching (and helping) them learn social skills to use with their peers, knowing that they are practicing the skills that will improve their lives for years to come.

    I love the kids who appreciate what I do, because they motivate me to keep doing it. I love the kids who only appreciate what I do when I do it well, because they help me to see the difference between what’s good and what’s crap. I love the kids who almost never appreciate anything I do, because on those rare occasions when they do appreciate something, I know it must be really outstanding.

    I love the kids who face incredible challenges in their lives and still manage to come to school, come to class, and get any work done at all. I especially love it when they let me see into a little piece of their lives and give me an opportunity to help them overcome some of those challenges. I love knowing that anything I do may make a difference in someone’s life that I may never be aware of.

    And besides that, I’m not even remotely a morning person. Anything that can make me look forward to getting up at 5:00am every day has to be incredibly worthwhile.

  • Kyle Williams

    I am a Summa Cum Laude layed -off teacher in California,

    Add to the fun in California you must be a relative or friend of the administration to stay employed no matter that you worked nights and weekends to ensure high test scores.

    In sixth grade the students must learn the word “essential.” We discussed what essential meant in our cramped, leaking, out-building stuffed with 34 Basic to Far below Basic kids. As a class we determined that to live essential means food, water, and shelter. In education essential meant a student and a teacher…nothing else was essential.

    I have been told there will be no teaching job for me. Summa Cum Laude means So what in California…my parents aren’t admin.

    I will use my love of learning and excell in a field that finds me essential.

    Good luck to you other teachers. XXXXXXXXOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  • OregonTeach

    In the past few years of teaching that I have rarely walked the halls with teachers asking for pats on the … What we are looking for is respect from the world outside our classrooms doors. Everyday I put up with things that are unique and very different from most other careers, and respect is all we want. Listen to those who stand infront of our children and are trying to tell you what we do everyday. The essay speaks for every teacher who is making a difference and trying to attain the academic knowledge the politians and people ask for from us. We aren’t sniffling and many of us are struggling to maintain a career that is failing due to the lack of understanding from parents, politians, and you. Remember the people making the determining factors for teaching were taught in the best private schools inside this country. They haven’t been in a place where your students are scared to go home, they are homeless, hungry, or sleep in the classroom because it is the safest place for them. Remember, we are on the front lines trying to help on more then just one level because we love and care about making a difference for at least one kid in a classroom with 32. Remember you even had a favorite teacher who was there for YOU…

  • Ronald Creech

    The problems cronicled here are cropping up all across our nation. It is always the teacher who is blamed for failing children, lord forbid that a parent should be held accountable, or even that child should be held accountable. When you have children that tell you, “I don’t have to do anything, you can’t fail me because of no child left behind.”, and they actually beleive it, or “I don’t care, because I am going to quit as soon as I can and sell drugs, and will make more money than you.”; what are teachers to do? The polititions want to regulate.. make it a crime for parents to have apethy to their childrens education, force the parents to be involved in the schools, make laws requiring parents to go to the school and pick up progress reports and report cards, and put stiff penalties and fines on parents who do not make their children do their work or be in class, and enforce them. After WWII, our House and Senate passed a law, known as the GI Bill, allowing returning slders to go to school, because this country was so far behind other countries in science and math. Today, we are falling behind again, despite every effort of teachers, and to here the polititions and parents, it is the teacher who is at fault. To memic the words of a certain redneck comedian… WAKE UP AMERICA… before it is too late. From a disallusioned teacher

  • Gloria Perry

    I aree with Mrs. McCabe. She is right on target. Thanks for putting our feelings online.

    • Cynthia McCabe

      Thanks Gloria, but I have to credit Jamee’s great essay!

  • T.L. Bailey

    It is a shame that lawmakers hold educators completely responsible for a childs success. But, the truth of the matter is, lawmakers need to hold the parents responsible for the success of a child. Teachers spend countless hours helping thier students try and pass these state mandated tests. But, they can only do so much, at some point the parents need to be held to the same accountablity as the teachers when it comes to THEIR child’s education. When parents don’t bring thier child to school, they don’t assist with homework, they wash thier hands of the child and expect the world to raise their child. I tip my hat to the lawmakers of Florida for taking a stand for teachers.

  • Those Who Can…Teach

    I have been so overwhelmed by this in Tennessee, that I did not realize how widespread this lack of respect has become, until reading this article. Jamee Miller has a Facebook page created for Florida Teachers (http://www.facebook.com/pages/I-am-a-Teacher-in-Florida/107318369288900), and after reading her essay and viewing the Facebook page, I was inspired to create a Facebook Group called “I am an Educator in America” (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=113939971980423&ref=mf). I hope you will visit and post your comments.

  • Katrina

    great essay- it works for everyone- just change the state!

  • Heidi Jean Weinrich

    Mainly what this article proves to me is that FLORIDA SUCKS. Not all teachers are treated this way in this country by any means. I was a high school teacher in NY and went to school in CT and teachers are paid well and treated well for the most part – at least comparatively to this. The south has a reputation of not valuing education as much as the northeast. Is there no union in Florida? Not that unions are the answer to everything by any means. Money depends a lot on districts and towns and taxes it seems. I’m actually a little confused by this.

  • Atozed

    I have been in sales in CA, UT, VA, MD, and NV. I have been a bartender, food server, substitute teacher, charter school teacher, and now a public school teacher. I worked the LEAST, by far, as a salesperson. The reason people go into sales is for the business lunches, golf dates, and partial days of work throughout the ENTIRE year. Most salesmen do not work a full eight-hour day. They do their work for the day and only go into the office if they need to for a meeting. Then go golfing or to a power lunch which is usually part of their allotted budget. It does not take a genius to sell products. You get a price sheet, tell half-truths, and if you have any kind of personality you meet your quota. Your job does not depend on the mood, attitude, or effort of a bunch of seven-year-olds and their parents. You do not have to be the counselor, mentor, referee, and educator to thirty students daily who have absolutely no vested interest in your success. NCLB will advance the students whether they do well on the standardized tests or not.
    As teachers, we have a moral obligation to step up and compensate for the parents who are not doing their jobs or are incarcerated because they dropped out of school or had no support growing up. We not only have to raise our own children, but all of the children we teach for most of their waking hours. How much are we paid for this huge responsibility? It is about $4.00 per child per day. About fifty cents an hour for each child we teach is hardly a fair wage for the work! I wish I could hire a teenage babysitter for that price for my children. Yet, we go to school for years and pay thousands of dollars to attain a degree to make a difference in the lives of children so that we can have a better society as a whole. Teachers are definitely not in it for the money but we do expect to be paid what is promised. What if you could only work for your base salary with no commissions but still be required to meet higher sales quotas each year? You sign up for base plus commission and when it comes time to get paid, they not only take away your commission, but also lower your base salary because of budget cuts. No matter how amazing you are at sales, or what you did in sales last year, the person who got hired a day before you will have a job next year and you are just out of luck. Yes, the system is broke and it needs to be fixed. As teachers, we know we sign up to “take one for the team” but do not expect to get kicked when we are down over and over again. I could easily go back into the sales industry and have been asked several times to do just that. However, who would care as much as I do and put in as many hours of unpaid overtime for the satisfaction of making a difference in even one child’s life? Who would trade a life of money, fancy cars, exotic trips, and spa dates to live on a tight budget with a limited income and scarce resources? Who would sign up to raise other people’s children for $.50/hr. that are disrespectful, ungrateful, and rude? Definitely not a self-centered, money-hungry, elitist salesman who does not care about the less fortunate or anybody not like them. It takes more work to teach than any other job I have done. It is also the most rewarding job ever. And for your information, the private schools are not held to the same standards or required to take the same standardized tests as the public schools. Many of them do not even have to have state certified teachers. Thank you all of you amazing underpaid teachers for serving our country and “taking one for the team!”

  • Tracey Ayer

    You could interchange “Florida” with any other place and itwould be the same story. Thank you for putting a voice to what most of us as teachers feel.

  • V

    I am a teacher in Dallas, Tx. and Everything I just read is the same thing I have been saying. I am ready to quit after 4 years because this job is degrading. The cons outweigh the pros and I’m tired because we are overworked & underpaid. They need to start holding parents accountable. Afterall they are there childs first teacher.

  • Sorcha O’Dwyer

    I too could interchange “Florida” with “Ireland” even. If there is an Irish teacher out there familiar with the Irish system, I would love to hear your essay “I am a teacher in Ireland”. Having lived for many years in the U.S, I am curious to compare.

  • KT

    To all the business world-themed responses, I think you are missing the point of the essay, which we as teachers see quite clearly. The point is not, “I am not being paid enough money, I work too hard, I don’t have enough materials and I want a better school,” it’s “what possible future can my children have without the support of a quality teacher (which districts lose with lower wages), more support (which doesn’t exist in lower-income schools nearly as much as in districts with higher average incomes), and the proper materials to live and function in a technology-driven world?” Yes teachers can simply “move up” to a district that isn’t struggling, to children with stable home lives, where there is parent support and involvement of any kind…but the point you are missing is: what happens to the children that are left in a district similar to the one described in this essay, if their teacher moves up to a district that is better-funded? If we don’t do more to keep our quality teachers in those districts, what happens to that half of the population? In a business driven-world, the business that is performing less spectacularly simply closes. We cannot “close” our children by stating that the answer to this teacher’s problems is to move to a better district and stop her whining. I’d like to see you pitch that to any school board. These teachers who care enough to endure this sort of teaching lifestyle are more than just dedicated teachers…they are heroes who need much more acknowledgment, support, and actual control of their classroom.

    I, by the way, am a former teacher who now manages a successful chain of retail stores and find work now a CAKEWALK compared to teaching. And I do put in over time. I do still teach my employees and staff every day. I am still held up to standards (but I literally laughed out loud when you tried to compare yearly budgets and LFL sales figures to the performance of students in a classroom. Money compared to children’s futures? Really???). And it’s sad that unless you have been a teacher yourself, you cannot possibly understand the hard work, dedication, and energy that goes into this job.

  • CM

    Let’s listen to all perspectives here…there is a reason why some feel that teacher accountability is a problem, and there are legitimate and real concerns with the effort due process requires in removing poor teachers. The unions serve a very real and beneficial purpose in protecting due process, and in the realm of a human enterprise like teaching, it is necessary. It has however lent itself to the protection of those who do not deserve it. Years of research clearly demonstrate that BEYOND the baggage of home, race, gender etc., that the number one influence on student achievement is the specific moves a teacher makes in the classroom. Is there a way to use achievement data, feedback from COLLEAGUES (see instructional rounds) and the observation process for all (teachers and administration) to identify who is doing it well, who needs coaching, who needs professional development and who needs to find another career? – It is being done. The key is for the NEA (in partnership with many others) to acknowledge the folks (including administration) that are making it happen and find systemic ways of recreating excellence. Unfortunately, this may include giving up some of the benefits that the ed unions have lobbied and fought for and won. I think it also means the way business is done at the state, local and management level also needs to change. And it needs to happen by working together. NEA needs to work harder to push change initiatives down to the local levels and build capacity in their local leadership to solve problems collaboratively.

  • Stephanie

    Bravo! Eloquently put.

  • Brewster

    I worked 50 weeks each year for 14 years teaching at-risk toddlers at a child development center. I’m in the public schools now, and I’d be fine with working a full year…but almost no one wants to pay me a living wage for the 10 months I’m working now!

  • Ms. Gonzalez

    This is wonderful. I’m also a teacher, and I can see myself in every of your words. Thanks!

  • Family of Teachers

    With all the budget cuts to education it’s amazing that anyone still wants to become a teacher anymore. My mother was a teacher in IL for 35 years and I can’t tell you how much time and money she spent on her classroom but I know it was too much. She was never at home for me and my brother because she was always at school going over lesson plans, grading papers, and a million other things all for the kids in her class. I knew how important being a teacher was to her so I understood all of the hours she was gone, but it really made me upset when she would come home looking defeated. She’s had everything from students who got violent with her and she’d come home with her arm all bandaged to parents that yelled at her because their child didn’t do their homework and were failing a subject because of it. She would keep children in from recess so that they could complete homework that they didn’t finish at home, then she’d have parents calling and yelling at her for taking their child’s free time away from them, giving absolutely no concern to the reason why she’d kept their child in the classroom during recess. She’d give up her lunchtime to help students who didn’t understand certain subject material. She even had some parents that claimed she was too hard on their sons or daughters just because of their race or religion and had the police called to the school where she worked intent on arresting her for something she didn’t do.

    Our teachers need our support more than ever because of the sheer time and money that they put into trying to raise the next generation. And yes, I said raise the next generation. They spend more time with the kids in their classrooms than most of the parents. They’re competing with the tv and internet to cram as much important information into these little minds as possible, all the while being yelled at by parents who don’t understand, and while having funding yanked right out from under them. In Illinois they’ve ruined the pension system for teachers. The teachers were already paying 75% of their own retirement up til now, and now they expect them to work to the new retirement age of 67. If that were the case, and a teacher started teaching at the age of 22 (right out of college) do the math. That adds up to 45 years in a classroom. Not much incentive for people in Illinois to consider teaching as a career choice anymore. I know I’ve changed my mind now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a great deal of respect for the people that still bravely step into the classroom everyday hoping to inspire the young minds and hearts that walk in that door.

  • B. Garcia

    I have to admit, it was hard to read this. Not because of its content, but because I had had tears streaming down my face. This essay expresses my sentiments exactly. I’m entering my 10th year of teaching at a Title 1 school in the inner city of Miami. I teach AP, but AP is obviously relative to the population you are teaching. So in other words, my “AP” students are not going to preform the same as “AP” students in an affluent community, yet I am held to the same standards. What they don’t see in the scores is a student who walked in reading at an 8th grade level (I teach 11th) who couldn’t put a paragraph together, let alone a thesis statement, score a 2 on the exam. Although a 2 is not considered a passing score, as an AP reader I know it is no small feat.
    I know the system is broken. I see it everyday! I work long hours, do my best to perfect my craft, while others in my building simply clock in and out and do little to nothing and get paid either the same or more. Trust me, it’s frustrating! But punishing ALL teachers is not the answer. Do we need to get rid of the “dead weight”? Absolutely! I agree that the unions need to stop protecting bad teachers, they are only perpetuating the problem.
    Furthermore, here’s a question, “when will parents be held accountable?” I can NOT go home with a child and make sure they do their homework or read. I can only do so much in the 100 minutes I see my students every other day. I can not begin to tell you how many times I’ve been told by a parent, “don’t call me no more, I’m too busy to be dealing with this” and click, the line goes dead. Seriously, are you kidding me!
    Oh and to those of you who keep telling me that, “well at least you get off by 3 and you have summer’s off” feel free to come and teach my class for a week and get back to me.

  • sharon huffman

    Well done! I am so glad that someone wrote what all educators are feeling..thanks!

    The only thing I would have added is the disrespect and disregard we are given by our students’s parents!

  • Jim Briggs

    Sisters and Brothers,
    While I am not an ed. major,( I’m a drop out), teaching experience has helped me lead my workers through our daily travails. I believe I could drop in and run most classes in HS and down. Yes, even for the math I do not understand. There is a certain rapport that is required. Now your detractors seem to latch on to the fact of union membership. This is the basic key or common denominator of their complaint. My own father was one of these people,my Mom was NJNEA. I am an Ironworker,(BSO&RIW Local 5). Perhaps the other side sees an edge for them by cutting others. My union has a program to encourage exemplary work habits. We have been lax. Unions have brought the working class out of the dark ages. We will continue to lead our nation into the future. They all call me Hot Dog

  • Karen

    Reading this I had tears in my eyes. I am a Nurse and when I had children decided to become a Substitute Teacher while my Children were small. I was asked to become a parapro at the same School. I have been at that School for 4 years. To say I am shocked would not be a true statement. The essay i just read is so true, these Teachers give so much of themselves for the kids. I believe with my entire heart that if our Congressmen and women had their children or Grandchildren in public Schools none of this would be an issue. There are great Teachers in our Public Schools and deserve everything that WE can give them.

  • Virginia

    I have taught in South Carolina and Georgia. Ditto what Mrs. Miller said.

    I feel the exact same way. She just happened to say it first!

    Good job Mrs. Miller!

  • Tiffany A.

    I must add to this list that I recently read in a Tennessee state newspaper that the first online high school is set to open this fall. Is our job really becoming obsolete? Their reasoning behind this online school … to better prepare our students for college. Most college students do not have the responsibility, drive, determination, and discipline to complete online classes! What’s going to happen when they turn high school over to the world wide web? I’m not allowed to require students to complete internet based assignments outside of class, because 80% of them do not have access to computers. Yet, we can require them to do their entire 4 years of high school online?

  • Lisa

    Salesman from CA and Reinhart –
    I certainly understand that all professions are hard & everyone has bosses breathing down their necks & are judged by results. However, in the business world we can fire those below us who are preventing good results from happening. We can’t get rid of the low kids at school just because they’re failing standardized tests and bringing down a teacher’s results.

    As for the person who suggested that teachers who aren’t getting adequate funding should just pick up and move, I seriously laughed out loud at that comment. Then I just wanted to cry. On the simple side, that teacher very well may have a spouse with a job that can’t just be relocated as easily. Secondly, if it were that easy wouldn’t ALL the teachers be fighting to teach in those wealthy, desirable schools? That would create quite havoc, don’t you think?

    Thank GOD some teachers are willing to stick around the crappy places with low funding. They don’t want to leave – they just want some understanding. You said the kids in that city in CA all have fancy computers because their parents pay big bucks for their educations. Well that’s really special and all, but you must have your head stuck in the sand. I guess you must only associate with people who can afford to pay for all of those great school supplies. Not every child is so lucky, dear. So now not only do low income kids have deadbeat parents (or just parents who are – gasp – teachers & make meager pay!) who can’t (or won’t) pay for a laptop computer, but now you want the good teachers to leave their schools to go somewhere wealthier where they’ll get more funding. These very kids you’re depriving of good teachers & supplies are the ones you’ll be supporting with tax dollars years later because they weren’t given the chance at a great education.

    The more we knock our teachers down, the less desirable that job becomes. The less good people who go into teaching, the worse our schools get. The worse the schools get, the worse our futures all get. Even those fancy doctors & lawyers & businessmen once sat in a 1st grade classroom learning to read. Either they were blessed with a home that helped/supported or they had teachers who were mentally, physically, & financially able to create learning environments that helped them succeed.

  • Melvetta Wright

    Ms. Miller’s essay could have been written by any teacher from across the United States! She very aptly put into words what countless thousands of teachers know to be the truth about what is happening in their school districts, schools and classrooms. What a shame!

  • What an excellent manifesto! I too am an overworked teacher from the state of Minnesota, pretty upset about the qcomp talk that will tie our salaries to test scores. I watched a news feature recently that spotlighted a foundation that is trying to get volunteers to go into the schools and work with kids in reading. That’s great – I love the idea of my students having some one on one time with a trained individual. But the premise of this organization is that the public schools are not doing their job – the spokesperson said they didn’t know exactly what the problem was – administration, curriculum, or the quality of the teaching. The next thing she said was “children are just not coming to kindergarten with the skills they need to be successful in school”. If they are not coming to school ready to learn, why do we as professional educators need to accept responsibility for their lack of success?!?!? Sounds like a “home” problem to me. There is a great big elephant in the room when it comes to looking at our schools – lack of educational nurturing in the years before they enter the formal educational world. We are expected to take up the slack for parents who have opted to plunk their children down in front of the TV, computer or game system instead of having meaningful vocabulary enriching conversations and experiences. Field trips are a necessary part of our school year simply because parents are not giving their children opportunities to encounter a world beyond their living room.

  • Leah

    Finally!! That’s all I can say! Finally someone has put into words what I feel on a daily basis. I work in an urban school in Norfolk, VA. I come to school every morning because of one thing…the children. I feed them, hug them, counsel them, cheer for them, clean their faces when their overworked mother forgot that morning. But I get so frustrated with the politics of education that the people downtown just don’t understand. You can’t judge us by test scores!!!!! There is soooo much more going on. Let us teach! And respect us for our craft! And repay us for our craft! I’ve had to multiple times provide backpacks, crayons, gluesticks, paper, materials for projects…what banker or business man has to by from his own pocket ink for the printer!!! Thank you for voicing out the opinions of so many teachers who are pushing along because they love their students and want to make a change in this world!

  • Steve

    I never post anything on the web, but wanted to tell you that your essay is great and I understand your pain. I am a 4th grade teacher in California. Thank You.

  • Brandy Wheeler

    I can appreciate everything that you are saying. As I finished my first year teaching, I find myself getting discouraged at the lack of pay, time, and support. Thank you for exposing what most teachers feel.

  • Teacher from CA

    Salesman from CA –

    I have sat here and wasted approximately eight minutes to compose a thoughtful rebuttal to your posts.

    This is much easier… it appears that you’re stupid – end of story.

  • Trish

    I am a teacher in Ohio. This essay is perfectly stated. Teachers do NOT get the recognition or respect that they did 20 years ago. There is no other profession that I would choose to be apart of. It infuriates me when I hear people say that we teachers have it made, since we only have to work 9-10 months out of the year. Contrary to those beliefs we teachers NEVER really have a break. We bring our work home with us every night, every weekend and every holiday break. And, do it for FREE. We never stop thinking or caring about what’s happening in the lives of our students (even after they move up a grade). Sometimes we’re the only ones that do. We continue to take classes to better ourselves (usually during our “break”). Obviously, we didn’t choose this profession for the compensation( or lack of) or recognition . We chose it, because it’s one of the few professions that one can actually say “I touched a life” or “I tried to make a difference in the life of a child.”

    Thank you, Jamee Miller, for speaking up for us who put our hearts and souls into this profession and for defending what we work so hard for. It’s too bad it’s come to this.

  • Pete

    I recently moved to Texas from Michigan to take a teaching job, and while the pay I receive there is much better than most places, it is not a large salary. Yet, I have friends who have much less education or inherited their jobs, and make twice as much as me, or more. While teachers have taken pay cuts and pay freezes in the recent years to “save” their jobs and schools, people in the business world keep getting more for working less. I have friends that, the longer they are with a company, the less time they actually work, and all I see are their salaries increased! I’m not talking 32 hrs a week, but more like 20-25, and easily making six figures. They think teachers have it made with vacation, yet I know former GM workers who regularly got 8+ weeks of vacation a year, plus other holidays. As teachers, we don’t have many options for vacation during the year. Plus, we don’t go on extremely cost-ineffective business trips like many of my friends do, where all they do is drink, party, and talk anything but business. The finger needs to be pointed in the business sector of our economy, where money apparently grows on trees and flows out of the faucets in their bathrooms. Teachers and public education do not waste money! For God’s sake, if anything we make the most of what little money we are given and somehow survive on the salaries we earn.

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  • What an amazing essay. I am a teacher too in Michigan & we face much of the same issues. Way to go! You said what we were all thinking!

  • One of the biggest problems facing education is the way it is funded. The quality of a child’s education should not come down to where their parents can afford to live. Unfortunately many people feel that as long as their children are getting a good education they have no responsibility to other children. However, we do not live in a vacuum. The education of society’s children is every person’s responsibility, yes even those people who do not have children or grandchildren. The reality is that you will pay for a poor education one way or another. If the resources are not adequate to properly prepare children to be contributing members of society, then the resources will have to appropriated to pay for more law enforcement, jails, drug treatment centers, etc. Adults who have not been prepared to be successful in the work world WILL find other ways to support themselves. These alternatives are not always positive.
    Support education and support good teachers so that the United States can fully take advantage of all of its talents and abilities. Nobody knows where the next great researcher, writer, or scientist is going to come from. Give every child a chance to recognize their full potential. We all benefit.

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  • Vicky Freund

    This article speaks to the society at large. I’ve heard similar stories coming from doctors, who are trying to give medical care to people who are sick or have been injured and cannot afford medical insurance. The problem is that a large portion of our society will give the well being of just about anyone to serve their economic status. They are GROSSLY socially irresponsible in every respect. Their excuse is, that these people don’t work hard enough. People who use this excuse do not understand that labor is a commodity, subject to the same rules of supply and demand that any other commodity is subject to. If the price is low (and it has to be for a healthy economy) the supply (of labor) has to be higher than the demand (jobs). Poverty is a CARVED IN STONE part of a capitalist economic system. The people of Florida put these bureaucrats in office and support them, to serve themselves at the expense of the children. Then they need someone to blame for their irresponsible behavior. The teachers.
    Everyone wants to live at a higher standard than they do. But, please recognize that without the small portion of people who are underemployed or unemployed you cannot have the much larger portion of our society that lives well. So, to fail to pay enough taxes to support the schools, create a decent medical system, pay unemployment benefits to people who have lost their jobs (a minimum of 5% of any healthy capitalist economic system), is IMMORAL. If we cannot handle the responsibility that comes with a capitalist economy, than we should just be socialist. Divide it all equally and be done with all the excuses and our societies disgusting failure illustrated in this letter.

  • Happy

    Teaching is hard! I love my work. We all need to let off steam now and then. I also think we ALL need to remember we live in a nation with 9% + unemployment and are watching colleagues around the country get laid off! Now is not the time to whine about how hard we have it. If you don’t love what you do maybe one of the thousands of laid off teachers around the country can come relieve you from your misery.

  • Mr Lucky

    I can certainly appreciate the dedication of so many great teachers in this country. One must also realize that we ALWAYS have other options(even though they may not be preferred). One must consider the possibility that digging in our own pockets simply enables the government to continue to rob from our children. The up-side: Children are incredibly resilient! I don’t care how impoverished a child’s up-bringing or education, they can achieve GREAT things… Even today! Perhaps an even more important question is: “Who is looking out for the SPIRITUAL welfare of our future generations?” We are living in an ever increasingly corrupt society with skewed morals and values. What good are money, success and international competetive abilities, without a chance at Heaven?(Atheists and pagans need not reply, as you’ve already decided your paths.)
    I wish all teachers success in their vocations. In the end, you will not be judged by what your children’s test scores were, but by the example you set.
    In +JMJ+

  • sue

    If you are a teacher, you know what the struggles are each day. I believe that this teacher has given the public prospective on what those struggles are. Other issues are that parents are not supporting their students in school, they fly in when there is a problem and spend very little time with their children or are not paying attention to what these kids are doing in school and out. Teachers are expected to perform miracles each day even in the face of students who are so behaviorally bad that the class can not be conducted because a student shows such disrespect that the rest of the class loses out. Teachers are expected to perform miracles with students who come to our schools not speaking the English language. Teachers are expected to perform miracles with students who have learning difficulties that are so severe that these students should be in classrooms with smaller numbers of peers and a teacher who can devote one on one time to them. Teachers are expected to teach a class of 30, differentiate their learning needs and provide students with their own individual plan each day. Teachers are expected to perform miracles with students who come from homes where they live in unsafe places, bullets fly by their window, have no running water or live in filthy homes that should be condemned, or without food available to them.
    Teachers nurture these students, buy them clothing, feed them, teach them, help them find safety where safety is lacking at home and help them learn to control their behavior and become an active citizen in the classroom.
    So before people start throwing stones, please consider what kind of parent you are, what can you do to help your child, how be involved in a child’s life who may need a mentor or how you can become a steward of education by donating your time or money to a foundation or school who can use your help and expertise.
    If it weren’t for teachers, we wouldn’t have doctors, computer experts, presidents, police officers, lawyers, nurses, scientists……and the list goes on. We should all be thanking them for everything they do, endure and face each day to help these children! Thank a teacher and tell them what an amazing person they are! I would challenge anyone who isn’t a teacher to walk a day in an educator’s shoes….it’s not as easy as you think.

  • Teacher in Idaho

    I could substitute, “I am a teacher in Idaho” where Jamee has written, “I am a teacher in Florida”, as I’m sure many teachers across the nation could put in the name of their states. But then I’d have to tack on a paragraph about having to take furlough days (14 days this year unpaid) and a second year with no step or lane increase.

    It becomes frustrating when it isn’t your district, but your state government that is trying to destroy education. The district has to deal with what the state government is mandating, and when the State Superintendent of Education and the Governor decide that education is not a priority in the state budget, but roads and prisons are, there isn’t much you can do but grit your teeth and hold on.

    Thank you to all my colleagues out there who are willing to stand shoulder to shoulder to improve the lives of those we teach!

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  • Keishla Ceaser-Jones

    I am a teacher in Texas, and I echo many of her sentiments. Most people think teachers clock out at 3pm and lay around during the summer. Think about it. Most teachers only get 45 minutes a day of planning time. Do you think a teacher can plan and grade all that they do in 45 minutes? Doubtful. So that means that most teachers spend many hours off contract working. Most teachers spend lots of time in the summer training and planning for the new year.

    I would love all the naysayers of the teaching profession to spend 1 month in the shoes of a teacher. If you did, you would appreciate us more. My work day is a nonstop flow of students in and out in groups of 35 at a time. 35 different personalities, attitudes.

    I think all teachers are asking is for a little respect and understanding. I think teachers want to be considered. We are amazed that all of you allow politicians to dictate what happens in education, and the people who went to school to be trained to do the job have very little say.

    We just want a little respect and consideration. And we want this country to put the resources to match the expectations and results they want.

  • miss robin

    BRAVO Jamee!

  • Jen Edhome

    I am a 4th grade homeschool teacher in GA. I chose to homeschool not for lack of great teachers, but for lack of great schools. I wanted my son to be challenged and his learning to be experiential, like my own 30 years ago in upstate NY public schools. I wanted him to be able to play outside for an hour or two each day, not 15 minutes on the recess field where there is no playground equipment. I wanted him to be able to take art and music, programs which are continually thought of as unnecessary in our schools. I wanted to take my history-lover to all the Revolutionary War Battle Sites, not to look at a video one day after the tests were done in April and we could learn “real” things. I wanted him to be able to go to school all year, not to have 14 furlough days but still be told “you’d better ace this arbitrary test”! I support teachers financially, politically, and emotionally. I have one student and it is far more difficult than my much-higher-paid former job. What I can’t support is the top-heavy administration, the state and federal oversight of what should be local policy, the 25 year-old tattered textbooks which cannot be replaced, the giant advertisements placed in schools so that more funding can be gleaned, and the one-size-fits-most-teach-to-the-test curriculum that could not possibly prepare our children for anything other than the factory floor.

  • Suzanne Barnett

    To: Cynthia
    I commend you for writing the essay about teaching in FL. As a fellow
    educator in the same state, I can relate to many of your observations and experiences. However, I think this publication of your essay in the NEA magazine defeats the purpose of “enlightment”; I suggest you submit your essay to a widely distributed magazine like Time, a reputable newspaper and/or politicians in FL. Thanks for your candid thoughts about teaching in FL.

    • Cynthia McCabe

      Thank you for reading NEA Today, Suzanne! One clarification: while I’d love to take credit for the excellent essay, it was written by Jamee Miller.

  • Marjorie R.

    I am a teacher in Massachusetts, and this piece has brought tears to my eyes. An excellent description of the complexity and challenges inherent in the profession of teaching, and how these have been exacerbated in today’s horrific political climate for education. Jamee, you really hit the nail on the head – thank you!

  • Well said Jamee. I would just like to add that whenever someone who is not a teacher comments about our sad salaries by saying, “But you get the whole summer off,” I inform them that I have worked those summer hours during the school year on weekends, evenings, and every holiday break in unpaid overtime.

  • Gavin

    Most of that essay is perfectly reasonable. Asking for tech savvy and not providing tech to teach with is just silly, for instance.

    However, the notion of using a standardized test for accountability is far more responsible and correct than any sort of subjective “come into my classroom” messiness. She seems to be a fine teacher, but most teachers aren’t providing us with the clear evidence that she is… accountability requires standardization of some sort, and tests are the way to do it.

    Should there be perhaps more diverse forms of standardized tests available? Maybe. Not so diverse that we start to test things that don’t actually lead to success in the world, but we could do more, sure. Keep it to standardized tests of some sort, though.

    Should there be a pretest and a post-test? Yes, of course. If her precinct doesn’t do that, they’re just terrible scientists. That’s not the TEST’S fault, though! A proper accountability system will account for what level students entered at, where they need to be, etc. on an individual basis.

    But that can and should still be done with standardized tests…

  • Debbie J.

    I am NOT a teacher but I say “Right on Jamee”. I have worked in the school district as a lunchroom/playground monitor for many years, and I can say that most of the teachers eat their lunch at their desks while catching up on work. My son and daughter-in-law are both teachers and holiday dinners are followed up by correcting papers when they should be enjoying their family. The amount of unpaid time they put into their profession is extreme. The amount they get paid is minimal. When you consider that they are forming the lives of our next world leaders compared to the person who plays a sport for a living, the pay (or lack of) just seems unreal. It takes a special person to go into teaching, and I say God Bless each and everyone of you.

  • Austin

    What a great essay. You have clearly stated what many teachers feel. I was an IT consultant before I started teaching technology at the high school level but I wanted to make a difference and I am doing that. I can assure you that anyone who has ever been a teacher can appreciate the sacrifices that are made to be able to make a difference. Maybe we should pay teachers like we pay pro athletes and celebrities.

  • Lori

    This is a great essay. Teachers do so much for our children and need to be paid and supported.

    As a parent, I’m so sick of hearing of all these test scores. I’m so tired of hearing about teachers HAVING to teach to a test. That is not what school is about. It is about that child that was reading at a 2nd grade level and is now up to 4th grade. It’s not about a stupid test at all. My son learns from his environment, not from endless pieces of paper or from filling in a bubble. The sum of my son’s education does not come from a yearly test. Why are legislators not listening to the parents either.

    Tests can be useful instruments in checking a child’s progress but they are not end all tools to understanding what a child has learned.

    Also, there has to be more responsibility at home. Parents need to realize their child’s teacher is not the only person that should be teaching their child.


  • Kennan

    …and the irony is that now it is openly admitted that the quandary of disparate standardized tests from one state to another make the results for comparison both invalid and unreliable! Although the constant moving target of curriculum requisites and changing of instruments results in a billion dollar industry for the few major book companies, it doesn’t address the realities that are connected to ‘high-stakes’ standardized testing and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which notes that “the more important that any quantitative social indicator becomes in social decision-making, the more likely it will be to distort and corrupt the social process it is intended to monitor.” (Amrein & Berliner, 2002, The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle Applied to the Social Sciences section). When the ‘high-stakes’ i.e., job and lively-hood are at stake, malfeasance can’t be lurking far behind!

  • Kate Kelley

    Great essay: honest, heartfelt and heartbreaking. It makes me so angry that teachers are held hostage by their concern for students. The education system relies on teachers working unpaid hours, buying supplies, doing whatever they must to fill the gap between what they need and what they get. I’m much too old to expect life to be fair, but it isn’t fair to take advantage of teachers’ love for their students.

    As for teaching to the test: a colleague was concerned that I had “gone rogue” because my students were doing activities and experiments instead of the sanctioned memorization. I hadn’t gone rogue; the system had gone crazy around me. I retired rather than be driven from the herd.

    I’ll continue to support those who remain in the trenches. Follow Jamee’s example: speak up! Keep the faith, and keep fighting!

  • Horace Mann

    Obviously our nation’s public schools are doing a terrific job. The products of our education system are as confident and creative as ever. For instance, have a look at the poetic license the author of this article took with such a commonplace word as “vomited.” Two “t”s? Double terrific! What guts! What moxie! Keep up the fine work, folks!horace@schoolreforminitiative.org

  • Vic

    IU am married to a teacher that I consider the most committed person that I have ever seen. She just so happens to have 2 BA’s, 2 MA’s and an additional 30 hours of specialized training. I have for years(we have been married for 23) been talking her into the corporate world. She refuses to leave the education world because she truly understands that she is naking a difference. You see if a person were in the business world with the credentials that my wife has earned they would be earning at least 3 and probably as much as 6 times tha salary that my “highly paid” wife is earning. This of course is not too mention that she cannot turn in an expense reprt to recover her personal expense that business folks do on a regular basis.

    Stupid, gready legislators need to find a way to convince the old people of Florida that the kids that are growing up now will be the guardians of their ertirement and that they should respect and support the teachers that are committed to the same end.

  • Ecosto

    Here is a link to a rather misinformed editorial about this. You might want to check it out and offer your opinions on that newspaper’s website particularly if you’re a teacher


  • Melissa S.

    After teaching high school for seven years under similar circumstances as Jamee, I guess I should be ashamed to write that I did relocate to a job in a very wealthy and (thus) “highly effective” school because I was about to burnout. Yes, the metaphorical grass is greener, but I learned an important lesson about the American school system. Schools are only as successful as the community in which they are located. Why do some community members and politicians use teachers as scapegoats for their short comings? Community members have as much, if not more, power to improve education as teachers do. Step up and take responsibility for your schools: vote bad board members out, or join the board, or support fundraising, or try showing up for your own childrens’ parent-teacher conferences. Teachers cannot reform education alone.

  • Ann

    I am a teacher in Virginia. We are getting a paycut this year, less school hours, and more students and yet are required to teach the same curriculum while obligating all the childrens’ needs.

    I will continue to do this, but when will they realize that teachers are only human, and we can only do what we can?

  • Teacher from Georgia

    Thank you, J. Miller, for taking the time OUT of your busy schedule to write such a heartfelt essay that any one of us could have written. Here in GA we are facing the same issues. We all get to work early (unpaid) and stay late (unpaid) all because we WANT to make a difference in the lives that we teach.

    The budget cuts and the dictations of what to teach, when to teach seem to only be speed bumps that we, as teachers, need to push over together to continue to create an atmosphere of amazing learning.

    I pray that your essay, an essay for all teachers, continues to be read by the right people or gets put in front of the right people. Perhaps one day, those people in suits, will sit back and say, Miller has a good point…education NEEDS the money so what are we going to do to get it to them…..in ALL states?

  • Debbie Echols

    Teachers are in a unique position. Since most adults once sat in a classroom and watched a teacher at work, many feel that they understand exactly what teachers do. Some of these same adults feel qualified to dictate educational practice, analyze student achievement and criticize today’s teachers, simply because they once were students.

    Consider that even though we have all had care from a doctor at some point, few of us would try to devise training and establish policies for the medical profession. And most people would not presume that they could be a better doctor simply because they had observed a doctor at work! Even though I can recognize a good doctor when I have one, I do not imagine that I know more about medicine than they do.

    I only know more about myself and I am proud to be a teacher.

    That is why I believe that teachers are the most qualified professionals to shape and improve today’s educational system. I have been in the teaching profession for 26 years. I have a wide range of training and advanced degrees (early childhood, elementary, middle school, special education, math and science) along with varied experiences. I LOVE what I do. I have been a teacher, a college instructor and an administrator, but I went back to teaching children – not for the money ? but for love of the craft.

    I am proud of what I do and know that I work harder now, than I ever did as an administrator. If teachers filled out time cards, maybe others would see that our summer vacation is merely partial compensation for the many overtime hours throughout the school year. If teachers filled out expense records, maybe they would understand how much teachers spend for their training, classrooms and their students. But, sadly, I do not think politicians want to see the hard evidence of just how much teachers labor and how little financial compensation teachers actually receive.

    I am proud to be a teacher, but saddened that our profession is under scrutiny from those with so little understanding.

    I am proud to be a teacher, and the talent, dedication and perseverance of my colleagues constantly amaze and inspire me.

    I am proud to be a teacher and fortunate to work for a small rural (not wealthy) school system that encourages, celebrates and supports their teachers.

    I am proud to be a teacher, but outraged that a TEST is allowed to measure our student’s progress when this TEST actually promotes discrimination towards those who don’t ‘measure up’ on a standardized test on a given day!

    In the business world, raw materials are discarded if they do not meet standards. In the education world, our students are our raw materials, and they come to us with so many differences in learning experiences / abilities – yet teachers are charged to shape them into similar products? And then we are chastised for their diversity?

    I am proud to be a teacher and I will continue to work hard, teach the curriculum, refine my craft and instill a love for learning in my students. Most of all, I will tell my students in words and by actions, that they are worthy of my time, my efforts, and my compassion and that they are so much more than a test score. Our children are our future and they deserve better than the rhetoric and misguided focus of NCLB.

    I am proud to be a teacher, and congratulate Jamee on an essay well done!

  • Jen

    This is a wonderful letter, unfortunately the majority of public school teachers are horrible and do not care about their students. You are one of the brave and very rare teachers.

  • Shannon Cumiford

    I was a parent of jr high and high school student in Bay Co, Florida on Florida’s ‘forgotten coast’…at least in education. I now am the grandparent of a 2nd time 1st grader there.
    My younger son was a very high functioning ADHD student who ‘could teach this class’ but could never get homework returned. Not that he did not complete said homework; he simply could not rationalize the importance of the exercise or why if he did the exact same problems every other day of the week why he had to do them again. Then that same thinking stretched to why he had to go to the class. At this time I was in the beginning throes of being a single parent. He was a senior in HS before the principal whom I consider the greatest educator I know, next to my kid sister (Dr. Emily Williams, assoc professor of Educational Psych, Univ of Indiana South Bend), Dr Anita Goodman-Dillard decided to complete an ADHD checklist. By then he was a senior, was on probation but through Dr. Dillard at AD Harris High School in Panama City, FL completed high school and a GED. I can’t tell you what if anything he learned from his classrooms. The first 6 years after HS he knocked around, went to community college for awhile, partied, went to jail, moved to Seattle, drugged and then spent 3 years of those 6 years hitch-hiking 6000 miles from Panama City to Seattle twice.
    He is now engaged to an awesome young woman and this time next year will be the Director of Camp Services at Lakeside Bible Camp, a church camp near Ft Casey on Whidbey Island, WA. He is the #1 choice for this position because A) of his abilities to run a large kitchen and work with young people who don’t have a clue about what they are going to do with their lives or B} have any idea what trouble A) is going to get them into.
    And to think. Drew, (my son) had a principal in jr high who vetoed his membership to a certain church (he’s a senior deacon there) because he knew the young man’s background “and he’s not the kind of person we want around our youth”. He was dating a girl there. This same principal decided students such as my son would be ‘shipped off’ [yes, the words my friend the school’s social worker repeated to me] to a school for behavioral [EH] students, “because they’re the ones that keep us from being an A+ school in FCAT, and we won’t accept less”. How can we choose?

  • Interesting…and I do think there are several stories like yours. Here’s what I don’t think. I don’t think EVERY teacher spends additional hours at work thinking up creative ways for their students to learn. I don’t think every teacher makes a low salary. In my district, the mean salary is 65K. I don’t think every teacher deserves more and I tend to think teachers in my district are well cared for with benefits, time off, pay and retirement. Yes, becoming a teacher was a choice. I happen to choose not to become a teacher because I did not want to be faced with numerous children with numerous needs. Instead, I chose the business field and I deal with numerous adults with numerous needs. In my job I need to maintain certain goals, motivate others, be inspiring and make money. I am judged based on my productivity and I believe teachers should be too. We don’t get contracts to take our jobs, instead we are told we are “at will employees” and can be let go at any time for any reason. I don’t have a union protecting me. I am judged on aspects of my position that I don’t have complete control over, but I somehow need to make it work. I don’t think this teacher is whining, but in the rest of the world, we too have to do things that don’t make us happy and certainly don’t make sense. We have to do our best. There are MANY teachers who put their heart and soul into their jobs – there are MANY people in other fields who do too. Unfortunately, there is not always something in return. I have had to buy my own supplies for work, pay money to entertain customers (and not be able to submit it or use it as a tax write-off). I am not aware of the amount of money I spend each year, but I do it to help myself…as does this teacher. It sounds like you have a very undeserved community. I am sorry that your bureaucrats believe a standard test is the best way to assess a teachers skills. I thoroughly disagree. In my community, we are already teaching with this in mind and it is a complete disservice to our children. I do think teachers should be assessed, by the PRINCIPAL. Each teacher should have to submit their curriculum, assessment of students, feedback from parents and test scores. You sound like a terrific teacher and I wish my children had the chance to learn from someone like you that shows dedication and desire to teach! Thank you – but you are not all teachers and you are not in my community.

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  • DJF

    I appreciate this teacher’s position. However, low pay, extra hours worked and unfair job performance standards are easy to find in a lot of industries…..and a great percentage of the workforce doesn’t have a job….some realistic estimates say it might be as high as 25% if figured the way it was in the past and not manipulated for political purposes. Unfortunately this is a sign of the times….not an exclusive problem for teachers. I worked as an accountant in a community college and was barely able to make ends meet as a single mom. To get my daughter to pre-school care and then drive 45min+ to work and then reverse the rountine at the end of the day required an extra 4+hours a day too. My pay was minimal there…lower than the starting salary of some of my peers when I graduated college 15yrs prior. Of course, many of them do not have jobs at all anymore. I worked two extra jobs at the church to be able to afford child care in the summer and virutally all of my wedding coordinator material were paid for out-of-pocket. The college did things on the weekend and we were expected to attend them….and figure out/pay for the extra childcare. There was very little personal time….in the summer I worked 7 days a week.
    The “kids” who were on campus there (and at times at the church I worked at … talk about LOW pay) before the college were often disrespectful, slovenly and foul-mouthed. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to base my salary in either place on someone else’s behavior/job performance, etc.
    People are so much more than a standardized score….life is more. Kudos to the state govenor who stood up for the uniqueness and special abilities in all of us….much of which cannot possibly be measured by a standardized score.

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  • Mr. C

    Mr. Lucky had a great comment but people some to not be giving him a chance. Yes there are many problems with our current system, but capitalism is the main one. It does not work for the majority of people, and us teachers fit in the category of it not working. The rich don’t want publicly educated kids to succeed because that would be kids who aren’t theirs. If they wanted positive change, they would have done it years ago. They’re getting exactly what they want. They’re getting a high turnover of angry and disgruntled teachers. This leaves a bunch of overworked teachers who get fed up and quit quickly. Then the kids who need a good quality education can’t receive it.

    Without moving to a socialist society, what needs to happen is raising taxes on the rich and corporations. This will give more money to education and these people should be able to afford it. If they can’t, then that’s their fault that they overextended themselves. By the way. In case you were wondering, yes this is basically socialism. Unfortunately, IT’S WHAT WE NEED! Capitalism is never going to solve this.

    October 2nd is a massive march being organized to get a change in DC. Hopefully this will at least lead eventually to a major third party of some kind (i.e. a labor party). Check it out!

  • Paul Hackl

    I teach at a well funded, recently renovated school in Ontario Canada. The school is lovely to look at, students are motivated and the teachers are happy. We have 300 computers for 1200 students, books that are less than 5 years old and at least one field trip every year for each student. Why?
    Because the school system is funded by the province, not by local taxes.
    Your system of funding is ill conceived, by wealthy citizens that are unwilling to share their good fortune.
    Push for a change in the funding of schools, state or even federal based, and get the military to hold the bake sales to by a new jet!

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  • Arthur Melanson

    Shawna Christenson has defined a problem. Has she proposed a remedy?

  • Donna

    AMEN, AMEN, AMEN. Well stated!

  • KC

    I am a urban teacher in Tennessee. I totally agree with everything in the essay. We received the “Race to the Top” money, but at what cost? 30% of our “million dollar” salaries will be based on student performance. This will have a profound effect on urban schools.

  • Dennis Vanderhoef

    Jamee is the kind of teacher we are all aspiring to be. True educational reform is methodical and research based. Teachers are responsible for creating life long learners, responsible citizens, and instilling a sense of creativity and pride in their students. Our present system only takes into account the students ability to take a test. Do we really want to create a generation of “great test takers”? I think politicians making educational policy is like auto mechanics fixing medical problems. Both are good at what they do but they should stick to their area of expertise.

  • Rhonda Spidell

    Thank you for speaking for educators all over the world. Well written and so true!!

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  • Patrick

    I am an elective teacher and I decided 2 years ago to see just how many hours I spent at school. I don’t have many papers to grade, so I just kept track of when I entered the school and when I left for the evening. At the end of the school year, I tallied up the hours on my wall calendar. I had 247.5 hours over the 40 hour week at the end of the year. Again, I teach an elective and don’t grade papers into the wee hours of the night. Ponder this, those of you who say that teachers have it easy and only work 9 months out of the year.

  • Melissa Howard

    Well stated! Thank you for finally putting into words what I have been feeling all these years! I am a teacher in a low-income district with a very high ESL population, and I wish more people outside of our profession truly understood what it’s like to be an educator. I identified with so much of this essay; working long hours for free, buying supplies and materials out of pocket, and being told how lucky I am to get summers and Christmas off. I invite anyone to shadow me for 1 week; if you can do this job and still tell me by the end that it’s a cinch, then I won’t say another word on this toic. And I mean do everything: RTI/504 paperwork, lesson plans, intervention paperwork and documentation- all of it!

  • Dear Ms Buffenbarger,

    I just read this for the first time, many months after you wrote your manifesto. May I commend you on your well written commentary and say, as a parent, I would be proud to have my children taught by you.

    With Respect,

    Lori Burke

  • JenK

    Amen! I had been a teacher in California for the past 16 years. I felt exactly as you do though I made the decision and resigned this past June. Not sure what the future holds. Good luck to you. I hope your students and their parents realize how fortunate they are to have you.

  • Joe Schmoe

    Okay, I am calling B.S. that this lady is up way before the morning commute (which starts around 5:30) and also that she is there hours after 3:00. If you ever go to a school 2 hours after closing, the place is a ghost town. I was a teacher not long ago. It was a great job, with great hours, and the best work schedule possible (summers off… unheard of in corporate America). The pay is low but not when you consider the amount of work put in compared to the average American worker (40+ hours a week 48-50 weeks a year). One of the main reason I left teaching was all the negative energy. I have never been around people who complain so much about their jobs. I would also say a good 50% of the teachers I was in contact with were just not good. Unfortunately, for the good teachers, this means testing. You can thank your colleagues who suck (for lack of a better term) and cannot be trusted to educate our youth. This is a nest we teachers as a group have created with the help of disinterested and poor parents. I know this will offend many of you but it is the truth. Good Luck to Ms. Miller and all the great teachers out there who care and do the job that is so desperately needed.

  • Lyn Watson

    Hit many of the points I’ve complained about for 38 years. Lawmakers should walk a few miles in a teachers’ shoes before making decisions they aren’t qualified to make. Why are teachers required to get a Master’s degree if they can’t be in on the planning for educating our children. Why aren’t we given the supplies and help we need to do our jobs? A fireman can’t put out the fire without water and a hose!! A baker can’t bake a cake without an oven and ingredients. I’ve had as many as 6 different ability levels in my class and I have to meet each of the different groups needs every day. I’ve had as many as 29 students in a classroom at a time. Class size does matter! This doesn’t even address the children with bad behavior that demand my attention at the expense of the other students learning. No support from the office is also a big problem when dealing with problems.

  • Liane

    I totally understand your feelings. I’m in my 14th year with a “socio-economic”, “latino/hispanic”, and “English Language Learner” population. With the budget cuts, we are not able to provide before or after school programs. Next, with idea of “incentive pay”, it will not work if the parents or students are not held accountable. My district has even lowered the required GPA to go on to the next grade level. WHAT???

  • adventuryes

    recently i saw a debate where it was brought out that the city bus drivers
    (eastern city; i forget which one…not new york….) averaged 65K not including benefits….and took many days off with pay because they were being spit on and ‘abused’ by the riding public. We are burning out and abusing our teachers in many school districts…….our teachers deserve more…..they serve our country.

  • My wife is a teacher. I believe she receives pretty good pay and benefits. The off time tallies to 4 months when you count all the holidays on top of the summer vacation. I know my wife works hard during the school year, but after a few years of teaching the same grade a teacher has the lesson plans set. The state standards may change from year to year for certain areas, so they have to adjust some plans at that time. Most time is spent identifying children and working on IEP’s. For all the off-time and expensive benefits they receive, I think they are more than nicely compensated. The benefits we receive from the district are far, far better than any benefit we would earn from a corporation.

    I work in the business field in the technical area. I work by dead-lines. My work days are defined by getting things done on time, so I end up working a lot of overtime for free. Right now it’s a Saturday night, I had to leave my family and work tonight. Since my company outsourced most of the US IT staff, my work-load has increased substantially. I give a lot of free time to the company I work for, so I’m less than sympathetic.

  • James Owen

    This truly strikes a chord with me. I was a teacher, and, never being a morning person myself, I would get up at 5:45, be on the road by 6 and in the classroom from 7 in the morning to 7 in the evening. With a half-hour for lunch and a provision in our contract that said we could not leave campus, I was like many of my coworkers, trapped in the classroom from the bell a 7:27 to the end of the day at 2:58.

    When I would get home, frequently between 7 pm and quarter to eight, I’d still have work that was not complete and once or twice a week would work until midnight to get things done. Even then, as my wife would tell you, my work week started Saturday evening and went all the way through until Friday night. Many cancelled dinner plans and outings later, it was no surprise that I was burnt out. After four years in education, I was getting sick all the time and developed heart problems due to it. I was let go because not enough of my students were getting proficient on the district benchmarks, even though many of my students fell in Advanced-Proficient or Advanced. At that point, I knew that it wasn’t worth my health to try again.

    My hat goes off to Ms. Miller. She has the endurance and the heart that 99.5% of people in other occupations could only dream of having.

  • Karyn

    Bravo, Jamee! I am tired of people seemingly everywhere getting on the “business people know best” bandwagon regarding running schools like corporations. The disinclusion of educators in making choices about education is indeed truly disrespectful. Legislators proposing this type of legislation are not doing their homework and must be acting from a place of political positioning. And who are they consulting? Business people who think they have all the answers. Our local schoolboard president is soon resigning – a businessman whose policies could not earn the respect of the district’s teachers, especially after he cut the budget by firing a couple of thousand of them. He got permission from the schoolboard to even let go experienced, tenured teachers, one of whom is the friend of a friend who is an excellent teacher with 16 years of experience, a recent widow with two teenage daughters to raise and put through college. But, after his damage has been done, he is leaving. And they found out that the businessman who had all the answers didn’t quite fill the bill when it comes to education. People need to wake up! Let educators have a say in the education of our children once again. And don’t get me started on the almighty test score! Parents and legislators need to wake up about all the numbers and know that some kids perform well in school and just do not do well on tests. Not to mention all the learning disabilities. Jamee did a fantastic job of explaining just what a teacher has to do to be a good educator and the effort that goes into creating a good learning environment for all students. And let’s face it, some students are going to fall below the almighty desired norm.

  • Kim Carter

    Amen, sister. I feel it, but couldn’t put it together the way you did.

  • Robert Fotoples

    Just insert the name of your state where FLORIDA appears. What has been written here applies to EVERY teacher in EVERY district in EVERY STATE in America.

  • Marcia Skidmore

    I am a teacher in Ohio.

    And I totally agree. This message is true here in Ohio. We too are overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated by most. I know your struggle. You certainly described my classroom and how I feel. Thank you for putting it into words.

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  • Jana

    How ironic is it that here I sit on Friday evening at 6:12 pm and am JUST getting home from my teaching day? I put the students on the bus at 3:25, worked an another 2 1/2 hours, and then packed about 300 papers to take home to correct, along with notes to type a unit all day Saturday and Sunday while my husband gets to go to the soccer games and birthday parties with my own children (who constantly ask why I spend so much time on “other” kids and not them)

    Anyway, I open up my mail and I find this posting from last week! It usually takes a week to get to any personal e-mail. Everything said rings true for teachers across the states. I have been teaching for 13 years and I have never seen education in such a horrific state. I teach 3rd grade. I have students who cannot add single digit numbers, read at a first grade level, tie their shoes or find a pencil. Last year I had 34, yes 34 students without any help. This year the 26 feel like 60. I, too, have spent hundreds of dollars so far this year on ink, paper, glue, etc. I have also spent the last 2 years finishing a second Master’s degree. I spent my own money on the credits, came home late 2 days a week to my own 3 children and worked all weekend-every weekend- in order to acquire the Master’s and move up the salary scale. I also quit a 2nd job I have had for 10 years in due to the increased paperwork demands of teaching. It is also a requirement for re-certification to take course, and of course this is done on MY OWN TIME.
    However, on the first day of school I was informed the contract wasn’t renewed-there would be no raise. The teachers here already accepted a 0% increase, but we NEVER agreed to a frozen salary. So now I owe $10,000 in tuition and I am making less money than I was last year.

    But I still reach into my pocket, show up with a smile and reach out to all 16 students as a teacher, mother, counselor, nurse, financial lender, mentor, and friend. Maybe this is the problem. Maybe if we simply stopped giving someone would listen. But ahhhh, that is the nature of the beast. We who teach do it for the love of the child and the craft. There are no bad teachers. Bad teachers would never survive. But there are tired teachers who are struggling to make things right and not succeeding. I AM ONE OF THOSE TEACHERS, and I honestly do not know how much more stress I can take from what USED to be TEACHING. It is now simply a career in damage control via test scores.

  • Julie C.

    I am a teacher in Tennessee. My husband is still amazed that I have to spend money each year in my classroom. “Don’t they give you money for that?” “Yes, Honey, they do but it’s not a drop in the bucket compared to what is really needed.” I too wonder how long I will be able to teach in TN.

  • Tiffany

    I could cry as I read this manifesto. You articulated my feelings with unparalleled accuracy. I have served as a high school Math teacher, and am on my last leg. I am preparing to take the PCAT this summer in an attempt to gain admission into Pharmacy school because I am no longer willing to sacrifice my time with my family and financial well-being for the sake of a failing school system. Sad, but true…

  • Todd

    All of the critics who have “other” jobs besides teaching, aren’t teachers because they can’t handle it. They talk a big game saying how easy teachers have it, but if they tried for even 1 year to teach, they’d pull their hair out or quit. Teachers are special people, and teachers are being asked to do a lot more and put up with a lot more than they were required to even 10+ years ago. There are so many people in the world who couldn’t even last a week with today’s students in a classroom and their issues, let alone try to actually teach them something while handling these issues and needs. Excellent writing by this Florida teacher.

  • How wonderful! Jamee Miller is a hero. Now someone please silkscreen t-shirts with her face on them, then sell them and donate the profits to a nonprofit supporting education reform in her community, please!

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  • Havely

    I have worked with amazing teachers, teachers that just get by, and teachers that quit after the first six months. I am fortunate to teach in a wonderful school with a very supportive staff. We are given most everything we need to perform our jobs and we have amazing parents. I also feel fortunate to have taught in Central Florida, because it helps me appreciate my current school so much more! There was a major lack of money and a lack of support. This translated into more time and money spent by teachers. Unfortunately, the kids where I taught are kids who need the MOST money, support, and time. They are the ones who ultimately suffer….because we all can’t afford to be “Jamee Millers”. I loved my students in Florida, but I saw what took place behind the scenes. So it was our goal to get out of FL before our kids entered the school system. I am grateful that our kids are now able to go to a school where their needs – and their teacher’s needs – are a priority. I commend Mrs. Miller for standing up and voicing what so many of us feel. The students in her class and her colleagues are so fortunate to experience her outlook on the world and education.

  • Fred Collins


  • Krista

    This is why most teachers leave teaching after 3 -5 years now. What other job has that many people leaving that soon? If it weren’t for teachers people wouldn’t make it to any of the other professions anyways. If it weren’t for teachers many children today wouldn’t make very effective adults since there are many (not all but many) parents who pay no attention to their children or take time to teach them anything (for example manners).

  • I was just googling ” I am a teacher, Because…. “. I am going to conduct a teacher training two days after…. so i was thinking to make the teacher express why they have actually become a teacher should be known first in order to start the training…. the first link was this blog …. and now i really need to think new to inspire the teachers more and every teacher possible around. I, Myself is a teacher of middle section…. I found so many similarities in my teaching life…. everyone influences me to join marketing or consultency job…. but i am fighting to stick to teaching. I believe if there is monetary scarcity in teaching then there is many times more satisfaction in being able to teach through which i learn to respect ownself more. Every teacher should read this essay.

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  • JIm Tavegia

    It could not have been said better. Politicians who can’t even run the state properly, bankrupt our children, now what to fix education? It is amazing how politicians who never want to be held accountable for their failures think they can throw another mandate down on someone else and make them accountable. The problem si that the general public is never held totally accountable. Public ed is the only institution that is required by law to keep the deadwood. Most all of the under performing students would have been fired from their jobs in the real world, but are forced to remain in school and teachers held totally accountable for the “horse led to water, but would not drink”. Poor performing students are never held accountable for their lack of effort and disrespect they show their teachers. It is always blame the teacher. Then the cycle will continue as these failures have children at government/taxpayer expense and send more under performing children to school. There is no solution to fix what is so morally wrong with this country, when most of the people at the top are morally corrupt as well. The bounty that God has given us has been misused and is gone forever.

  • Marlene

    Just read Jamee’s piece. WOW! Will begin my 43rd year in education in 2 weeks. I continually receive high evaluations, have taught in various schools on both Coasts and in Europe. I have been an administrator and returned to the classroom because I enjoy teaching. However, when experts with no training, experience, or understanding tell us what we should be doing with our 26 or 31 elementary students who come to school hungry, didn’t complete any homework because – -(take your pick: family was removed from the apartment and into a shelter, parent was fighting with ….. before the police arrived, gunshots were heard all night from gangs and police action, babysitter/sibling/family member was abusing the child, parents were working so the 9 year old was babysitting the younger siblings,etc.), and have not seen anything farther away than 2 miles from the school, then strong learning is not happening! State/federal legislators AND Bill Gates are smarter, wiser, and better able to tell public teachers what to teach, when to teach it, and how to assess its learning for these students? Never mind that Bill Gates’ children attend excellent private schools with classes with fewer than 20 students. Never mind that legislators can’t figure out how to run the state or country without taking money from the middle and lower classes and let the wealthy people pay less taxes (see Warren Buffet’s comments on federal taxes- he paid less taxes than his secretary – – by percentage!) If you see a good teacher arrive just before the students, he probably arranged for a very early morning dental appointment – it’s difficult to visit a dentist after 7PM. If you see a good teacher leave with the students, she is on her way to a training session, probably for the new, required curriculum that will revolutionize student learning and improve all students’ test scores (and will be replaced in 1 or 2 years by a better program), all required by legislators. Yes, I’ve spent thousands of dollars for my students, yearly- not over my career. Yes, all students should receive a strong education! Yes, most teachers are above average! Jamee, I would work with you anytime. Why? Because we care even when others -including legislators and Bill Gates- don’t get it!

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  • Shary Thomas

    I am proud to be a teacher and I am proud that you are one too. Your students are blessed! I hope you never leave the teaching profession. It would be a devastating loss!

  • Jesse Puhr

    I am a graduate student pursuing an MAT in Exceptional Education, and am in my first internship now in Tampa. I find it heart-breaking to read this essay because I know how common such thoughts are in this profession. Sadly our current governor and indeed society in general does not care enough to make education a priority. Also sad is that while many teachers such as Jamee are putting in overtime and shelling out for materials, there are also many teachers who are coasting along with terrible attitudes and beat the children off of school property after the final bell rings. We all hate the standardized test and the methods with which we are held accountable, but a teacher would need to be blind or criminally naive to think that some form of accountability wasn’t needed. Until EVERY teacher is a a quality teacher, though, we run the risk of having the entire profession guilt-by-association, the effects of which will threaten to push out those we need to retain the most. This is only my humble opinion, but mixing a little honesty with our indignation is called for…

  • Respect is a must for everybody.

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  • I’ve had it

    Oh, the irony! I just read this while taking a break from grading papers. I’ve been at it for five hours, with about another four to go before I began lesson planning for the week. Did I mention that today is Sunday?

  • I feel your frustration…after 40 years of teaching…I had an administrator today mandate capricious and illogical rules of his own on the proctoring of state tests..he implied as classroom teachers we are all cheaters and need proctoring as we proctor our exams…he listed all the “bad” things we could possibly do to “illegally” help children and finished each item on the list with the words “shame on you”…blamed before we have even begun…welcome to the Gestapo world of education…my heart is breaking for the profession I have loved and embraced for so long…my grandchildren will most likely be homeschooled….shame on America for letting an ignorant few dictate the learning of our future.

  • C Staude

    When our society begins to value teachers half as much as it does other professions (professional athletes come to mind) we will see change. Sadly, those of us who love what we do, must continue to wait for that day – and do the very best we can.

  • Wonderful and so true. Would love this sent to our wonderful Governor Christie who tells the public every day how teachers don’t care about the students.

  • Veronica

    Thank you! I could substitute Florida with South Carolina!


    Very well said! Louisiana teachers feel the same way. I wish more people understood the life of a good teacher. May God bless you and all the great teachers out there.

  • I, too am a teacher and have been teaching for 37 years……I love my job but due too all of the goverment changes and putting us held accountable for the children we receive in our classrooms, is unheard of! I love teaching but the other challenges in education is where the teachers will have to decide if they are going to be able to stay in education! I can say that I had so many wonderful years in education and still do but the stress that they are putting on the teachers is unheard of. I, too spend LOTS of my own money on supplies, ink, copy paper and the children themselves! I buy books for them to read , make sure I have an extra snack for those who are hungry and try to meet the needs of all of them and even make them a photo memory of the year. And as for having the SUMMER off—no way…..we get out at the end of May and start the children arrive Aug. 8th and that does not take into account the time you spend in your classroom getting it ready fot the new year or the workshops you must attend on your own time in order to stay certified! So I guess I will get off my soapbox as I am retiring at the end of this year…not because I don’t love teaching or my children but that I am tired of fighting against the people who don’t understand teaching in the first place! Good luck to all of the GREAT teachers out there as I too won Teacher of the Year!

  • Ashley

    All you people have written that you do all this work and don’t get paid, i know you don’t get paid enough i know you put in unpaid overtime because my children s teachers do….
    the problem is that the law-makers don’t give a crap about how many unpaid hours you put in…. they look at schools and all they see is the money that is put into it and not the kids struggling to survive, because their parents don’t have jobs and the only food they eat is the ‘free’ cafeteria lunch offered.
    They don’t see the dozens of IEPs that you spend hours doing the paperwork and re-evaluating and conferences with the parents and other teachers and special ed students that are pulled from the class and you have to keep track of 20- 30 students from 7:30 – 3:30 pm, plus longer is there are after school activities.
    I was fortunate to finally find a school in 4th grade that gave ME what I needed, after 4 years of slipping through the cracks.
    I thank God every day to know that MY SON is in a school that cares about their students, and has teachers like Ms. Miller…. she is a wonderful teacher, judging from what she wrote….
    and i am lucky to have known many teachers like her in my lifetime….
    sincerely, a lucky parent….

  • I stand by every word of this essay. I know that if the lawmakers and political agnendas were looked at clearly they would see that they themselves were taught by TEACHERS now look where they sit and the decisions THEY make.WHY? was there education not WELL spent.DO thier children NOT need to learn and thrive. GOD BLESS ALL TEACHERS WHO CARE AND GIVE CHILDREN A REASON TO WANT TO LEARN !!!!!!!!!!!THANK YOU. I APPRECIATE YOU ALL.

  • Well written and makes the point. Unrealistic expectations of teachers and students will cause extraordinary stress and unnecessary failure of some students who don’t deserve it. When will the legislators get a clue as to what they have done?

  • david

    I agree , i see a county teacher superintendant making $275,000 and he gets a pic in paper as his first knock on a door of a student who didn’t come to class- at his pay he should be doing this everyday !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I taught a part time adjunct in home remodeling , when asked if i could do it more than a 1 night class – i lost that class and now a woman gets a 4 wk class – sexual discrimination still exsists in teaching – the persona of a male teacher is we don’t understand, homo sexual or a pervert looking for young children. I pity any one thinking they are going to change the world and pay their bills – it ‘s one or the other.

  • Tammy

    OMG, as I read this story I was reliving my 26 years as a teacher. I retired nearly 3 years ago, left public school teaching 9 years ago. I was so fed up with administrators acting as though they knew what was happening in the classroom and telling me I was not an effective teacher. Geez, then tell me why may of my special education students had great jobs, went to college, thanked me for being the teacher I was for them for the way I taught them and the goals we set together for them molded them into the student and adult they are now. Funds given but taken away when time came to use them,,not for me, but for my students; spending upwards of $10,000 per year to supply the students of my classes; arrive at the school 1-2 hours prior to the opening and leave 2-3 1/2 hrs after school closed; spent my weekends, holidays, and summers planning, developing, purchasing, and everything in between for lessons for my classroom and students, ALL WITHOUT REIMBURSEMENT.

    So much disrespect for teachers because we only work September to mid June and we get paid so much money. How much was I making in the end when I had to purchase all my supplies? How can they expect students in special education to work 2-4 years below their age level and still be expected to score as those working on grade level? How can they justify tearing a child apart emotionally after I have just spent months/years for some working on building their self-esteem so they feel confidence and pride in what they are capable of doing and driven to do better, even if only a bit better?

    Our administrators and politicians only care about their pockets and not of the students of our country. They only pretend to care when it’s time for election year. OH AND LET’S LOOK AT NEW GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTI!!! HE’S THE BIGGEST, MOST HORRIBLE BULLY IN THE POLITICAL WORLD AND WHAT’S SCARY IS OTHERS WANT TO FOLLOW HIM AND BEGGING HIM TO BE PRESIDENT. He hates the teachers because NJEA did not back his bid for governor and we’ve been paying for it since.

    This written piece from a loving and caring teacher in Florida is so well written and right on the mark. I THANK ALL THE TEACHERS IN OUR COUNTRY FOR YOUR DEDICATED TIME TO OUR CHILDREN. For without you they wouldn’t be anywhere. THERE ARE FAR MORE PHENOMINAL TEACHERS THAN HORRIBLE ONES. PRAISE THE TEACHERS,,,DON’T ABUSE THEM. Please!!!!

  • JonettaC

    I wish this were required reading for every school board member, as well as everyone in any level of government. I can remember when I was in elementary school, we could ask our teacher a random question, and even if it wasn’t part of the curriculum, he/she could spend several days exploring that topic with us – teachers now do not have that luxury. Most are being forced to teach whatever their state’s big test is. As parents, we need to get angry about this – my child is NOT just a result on some test – is yours? Each and every one of them is talented in their own way, no matter what some test says.

    To the teachers out there who are fighting this, and doing your best even though you are told you are failing….to those willing to let our children explore, even if it’s not on “the test” – my very sincere and heartfelt thanks go out to you. My children have been lucky to have some excellent teachers, and very few who we were dissatisfied with. You have this mom’s total support!

  • Financing 101

    At least her and her husband are doing well enough to donate $30,000 to a university.

  • Financing 101

    At least her and her husband are doing well enough to donate $30,000.00 to a University.

  • Financing 101

    At least her and her husband do well enough to give $30,000.00 to a university! must have borrowed against her pension or just care enough to accrue some debt. Sounds like that money could have been used on class rooms in the school. But I am nobody to judge the use of an individuals money. All I ask is that teachers take the time to realize everybody’s job is important to them, and in some way is important to society. The teacher, garbage man, lawyer, janitor, or doctor are all important. Teaching, although extremely important, is not the only important job. Sacrifices must be made IN ALL areas.

  • Terri McHenry

    I teach in what I feel is the best parish and best school in Louisiana. 🙂 Our current governor and state leaders have just sold out Louisiana Education due to their self serving, uneducated mandates. Everything Jamee said in her essay is true! I spend all my time and much of my personal money on supplies and materials for my students and my classroom. I’m thankful for parents who are willing to help with items for the students. My parish gives us $75 at the beginning of the year to help with supplies and our PTO gave me $75 in March for classroom supplies and teaching materials. The remainder of materials and supplies needed is bought by me or my principal when she can. I spend no less than $1000 a year out of my pocket. I do this because I want to give my students the best learning experience possible. In an effort to do more for my students, I am up late each night grading papers, writing lessons, researching ideas and looking for extra information on the internet or in books. I’m constantly working on furthering my own education through university classes, book studies and seminars. My own family has been neglected for many years and now my youngest son is about to be a Senior in high school. Where did all of my time go….to teaching. What have I taught? Did I teach my own children that they weren’t as important as other children? Did I teach my own children what it means to be committed to do the very best job possible and the importance of a job that you love? Did I teach my students to love, respect, and care for themselves and others? Did I teach my students how to add, subtract, multiply and divide? Did I teach them the importance of citizenship? Did I teach them to be kind to people who are different from them? Did I teach them the importance of responsibility? I could go on and on. You see a teacher teaches more than what is in a book. A teacher teaches the whole person. A teacher shows unconditional love and acceptance to students who don’t even love themselves. I chose my profession, I love my profession and I love my students. I do not agree with the steps the lawmakers are taking to “better” education. Is there a need for improvement? Yes. Is there a wrong way of trying to get there? Yes, the road we are now on. We as teachers are experts in our craft. Listen to us when we voice our opinions and let us use our education,experience and knowledge to help make changes. Show us RESPECT!

  • eleanor53

    The starting salary for an elementary school teacher in N.Y.C is 47K – 51K. I know the amount isn’t exactly a six-figure salary, but it certainly is a lot more than the 28K Amy mentioned in her letter. For the most part, teachers are overworked and underpaid, however, those who work in certain states do not receive a pittance of a paycheck.

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