Saturday, November 1, 2014

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?

Read also An Upset Educator’s Letter to Oprah – ‘Ask Teachers’
How Bad Education Policies Demoralize Teachers


161 Responses to “Florida Teacher’s Essay Becomes Rallying Cry for Respect”
  1. Lori says:

    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

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  2. JenK says:

    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.

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  3. Joe Schmoe says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  4. Lyn Watson says:

    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.

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  5. Liane says:

    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???

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  6. adventuryes says:

    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.

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  7. mnights says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  8. James Owen says:

    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.

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  9. Karyn says:

    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.

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  10. Kim Carter says:

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

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  11. Robert Fotoples says:

    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.

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  12. Marcia Skidmore says:

    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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  13. Jana says:

    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.

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  14. Julie C. says:

    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.

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  15. Tiffany says:

    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…

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  16. Todd says:

    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.

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  17. Desiree says:

    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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  18. Havely says:

    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.

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  19. Fred Collins says:


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  20. Krista says:

    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).

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  21. 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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  22. JIm Tavegia says:

    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.

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  23. Marlene says:

    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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  24. Shary Thomas says:

    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!

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  25. Jesse Puhr says:

    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…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 26 Thumb down 26

  26. Pokemon says:

    Respect is a must for everybody.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  27. I've had it says:

    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?

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  28. 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.

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  29. C Staude says:

    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.

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  30. Linda says:

    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.

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  31. Veronica says:

    Thank you! I could substitute Florida with South Carolina!

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  32. I LOVE LA says:

    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.

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  33. Maryann says:

    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!

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  34. Ashley says:

    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….

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  35. Eva Pino says:

    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.

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  36. Beth says:

    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?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  37. david says:

    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.

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  38. Tammy says:

    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!!!!

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  39. JonettaC says:

    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!

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  43. Terri McHenry says:

    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!

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  44. eleanor53 says:

    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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  1. [...] A Cry for Respect for Educators [...]

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  3. [...] via Florida Teacher’s Essay Becomes Rallying Cry for Respect. [...]

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  4. [...] Florida Teacher’s Essay Becomes Rallying Cry For Respect: I’d encourage you to go read Jamee Miller’s letter. When you’re done, go hug a teacher. [...]

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  5. [...] I AM A TEACHER By thekittycats Florida Teacher’s Essay Becomes Rallying Cry for Respect [...]

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  6. [...] Teacher's Essay Becomes Rallying Cry for Respect Florida Teacher’s Essay Becomes Rallying Cry for Respect | NEA Today April 21, 2010 by Amy BuffenbargerFiled under Featured News, Jobs, State News, Top Stories, [...]

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  7. [...] Florida Teacher’s Essay Becomes Rallying Cry for Respect | NEA Today 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. [...]

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  8. [...] one that appeared on the NEA website, and  encourage you to read it. Original article can be found here. Thanks to Cynthia McCabe for writing this awesome piece: I am a teacher in [...]

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  9. [...] “Bad Teacher” fought back, from Florida Teacher’s Essay Becomes Rally Cry for Respect I went to school at one of the best universities in the country and completed undergraduate and [...]

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  10. [...] Read more about Miller, including the full text of her essay, here. [...]

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  11. [...] when I think of organizing something on my own or blazing a trail…(like this quote from a Florida teacher’s letter) The message comes in loud and clear that a group of people in business suits can more effectively [...]

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  12. [...] From the NEA’s site: “(Jamee) 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.” [...]

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  15. [...] opinion, teachers are often under-appreciated. As you can see from the following article taken from neaToday, being an educator is a bigger job than the average person usually [...]

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