Dear Department of Education,
I'm writing this letter to tell you just how deeply grateful I am for all you have done for me over the last six years of teaching. Tonight, this woman in her thirties is overwhelmed with gratitude.
First, I am so grateful for how you value my time. Today, for example, I spent my entire prep hour on the phone with you and your computer tech support so I could figure out how I could pay you to renew my license. You were obviously frustrated that I don't know your website like the back of my hand. I've thought about it, and you are right. Teachers have tons of time on their hands to surf the web, and I should definitely have memorized the ins and outs of your web directory.
Second, I'm so happy that you make it so difficult to maintain my job. It's nice to know there are people in offices eating doughnuts at 10:30 every morning trying to come up with creative ways of winding up red tape. Just how many units do I need to update my credential? Who is in charge of state-to-state reciprocity? Why do I need to sent yet another set of official transcripts to you? You are so right in your thinking-- I have nothing better to do.
And on that note, thanks for valuing my experience and education. It makes perfect sense to me that a woman in her thirties who has taught in California and overseas in the most difficult high school curriculum on earth would need to re-take classes at $300+ per unit in order to prove that I know what I'm doing. Why value the fact that I have traveled the world, speak a little Chinese, and have taught in various different urban and suburban settings? What makes more sense is to grant tenure to teachers after a few years of teaching and make it impossible for them to leave their state or district for fear of having to repeat the process over again. Teachers are best when they have stayed in their own classroom bubble their entire lives-- that's my motto.
I'm so grateful for my excellent pay. You know that teaching is a great job when people pay (in my case $18,000) for a year of extra schooling to become a teacher. In that year I almost had my car repossessed, worked for free, and slept on my friend's air mattress. But thankfully I was working to become a teacher, where the pay keeps me just squeaking above the poverty line. I went overseas to get paid even less, and this year I took an almost 20% pay cut because I moved states. But all of this is nothing compared to the classes I have to take and the testing I have had to redo. If my math is correct (and it always is-- I'm a teacher), in the next two years I will take home about $2000 in actual pay. But hey-- it's my fault for prioritizing a silly little thing called life experience.
But I must end with my gratitude for my summer vacations, the one benefit I get in my job that you and others who have never taught choose to throw in my face at every opportunity. You really understand what our experience is like all year and totally get that the summer is the one time we can re-assess our curriculum and prioritize professional development. I mean really-- we don't deserve this benefit. Every other job on the planet has a person creating and maintaining a safe and effective learning environment on a daily basis. Every other job requires a person to be 'on' all day, every day. And let's face it-- any schmuck can stand up in front of a room of 18-year-olds and get them to relate to Camus. Existentialism? Duh.
So thanks again. According to your website you put 'kids first', and I think that's important. I think about that every month when I stock up on pens and pencils for my classroom. I think about it every afternoon when my classroom of 37 sophomores complains about the heat. And I will continue to think about it tonight as I grade research papers that I don't have time to grade during the day. I have so much pride in knowing that at least, at the end of the day, it's not what I do in the classroom that counts. What counts is making sure us ungrateful teachers know exactly who we are working for-- you.