Husband teaches in the public school system. Granted, he teaches kids who don’t speak English–yet! But it’s still the public school. My parents are public school teachers, my mother-in-law was, and so were both my grandparents. Teaching other people’s’ kids for not much money seems to run in our blood. So maybe it’s no real surprise that I’ve been keeping an eye on what’s been going on in Chicago these last few days.
See, I know what it’s like to have someone you love put in long hours teaching school and then still see students fall between the cracks and fail. I know exactly how small a teacher’s salary is (although the average teacher’s salary in Chicago is $74,000? What in the world?) I know, because Husband taught school when we had two toddlers and an infant, one income, a mortgage, insurance bills…We parsed his salary, staring at it under a microscope, searching for ways to make it stretch. And I know how much most teachers care about their students, often musing about them over dinner, sometimes checking in with them over the weekend.
What I can’t understand is how people who claim to love kids that much can suddenly say, “I’m done. Give me what I want or I’m done.” If the Chicago teacher’s union strike tactics work, it’ll be a sad day for students. If they don’t end up working, it’ll still be a sad day for students. Because the message these teachers have sent to their students–and all of America–is, If you don’t get what you want in life, demand it, threaten, refuse to work, neglect your responsibilities, stamp your feet, throw even little kids under the bus, because, above all, you are worth it.
What if all moms decided to strike, organizing to picket their neighborhoods, marching and demanding fewer diapers, more hours of sleep? What if firefighters came to the conclusion that they weren’t being shown enough respect, that fires are too hot? Or policemen concluded that it actually stinks to be a cop, because, Lord knows, their jobs aren’t exactly safe?
My point is, the spirit of entitlement that has germinated and grown in the soil of American sentiment for several years has finally bloomed, and it looks like a weed. Now it’s not just young people demanding things from the government–young people who do not remember life without the internet and who believe that they are, by virtue of being born, very special.
Heaven help us, now it’s our teachers. These people are the leaders, the examples students look to for guidance when many don’t have parents in the home to fill important mentoring roles. And what are the teachers in Chicago showing? That personal duty means very little. That the government owes them their jobs. That, even in an economy where many can’t find work, the steady jobs they have aren’t cushy enough.
My advice to the Chicago teachers who cheated their students out of two or three days of tax-payer-funded education so that they could march? Teach your students with your life. Lead by example. Protest if you must. But don’t shirk your responsibilities to your students. Because you’ve just shown them that it’s OK for them to shirk theirs.