Friday, October 31, 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. Ralph Rodriguez says:

    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?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 189 Thumb down 3

  2. Eric says:

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

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 39 Thumb down 154

  3. 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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 68 Thumb down 4

  4. 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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 94 Thumb down 3

  5. SchoolNurse10 says:

    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!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 63 Thumb down 4

  6. Salesman from CA says:

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

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 212

  7. John says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 4

  8. TA in MI says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 93 Thumb down 7

  9. MI Teacher says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 70 Thumb down 2

  10. Salesman from CA says:

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

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 102

  11. Kim says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 72 Thumb down 3

  12. DSL says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 37 Thumb down 0

  13. Marci Gottfried says:

    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

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 49 Thumb down 0

  14. christine ehlers says:

    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

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 0

  15. Reinhart says:

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

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 74

  16. Mark says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 40 Thumb down 4

  17. 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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  18. Richard says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 46 Thumb down 1

  19. Joe Shmoe says:

    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?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 1

  20. Linda says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 1

  21. Ann Oakes says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  22. Cyndi says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 1

  23. michele says:

    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!”

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 1

  24. Shelley says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  25. Pat says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  26. Jeff says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  27. Kyle Williams says:

    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

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  28. OregonTeach says:

    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…

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  29. Ronald Creech says:

    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

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  30. Gloria Perry says:

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

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. Cynthia McCabe says:

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

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. T.L. Bailey says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  33. Those Who Can...Teach says:

    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 (, 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” ( I hope you will visit and post your comments.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  34. Katrina says:

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

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  35. Heidi Jean Weinrich says:

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

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 9

  36. Atozed says:

    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!”

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  37. Tracey Ayer says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  38. V says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  39. Sorcha O'Dwyer says:

    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.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  40. KT says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  41. CM says:

    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.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  42. Stephanie says:

    Bravo! Eloquently put.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  43. Brewster says:

    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!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  44. Ms. Gonzalez says:

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

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  45. Family of Teachers says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  46. B. Garcia says:

    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.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  47. sharon huffman says:

    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!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  48. Jim Briggs says:

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

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  49. Karen says:

    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.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  50. Virginia says:

    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!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. [...] A Cry for Respect for Educators [...]

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 7

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

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 53

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

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  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. [...]

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

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

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  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, [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  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. [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  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 [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  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 [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  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 [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  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.” [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. [...] This post was Twitted by suzilong6 [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  14. [...] the Facebook wall of my sister the teacher, an essay by a Florida teacher explaining how things really are:. I am required to teach Social Studies and Writing without any [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  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 [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!