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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Letter to the Editor 3-17-11

I have submitted this to the local newspapers.  I'm not sure that they will publish it so I am also posting it here:
For me, being proud, frustrated, and exhausted is all part of a profession I love.

I have worked in education since I graduated from Viterbo University in December of 2001.  I cannot describe the pride I felt five years ago when I signed my first full-time contract with Mauston. 

I am frequently frustrated as a teacher; certainly every job has its frustrations.  Students, colleagues, administrators, and parents all have their ways of creating “problems” for a teacher.  I learned that dealing with those frustrations was one of the challenges of the job.  While I have never looked forward to frustrations, I have learned to deal with them and learn from them.  I have become a professional.

Part of being a professional is that you are able to make plans to achieve the best possible outcome while coping with the reality that plans are often disrupted.  That ability comes only with experience. 

Being exhausted at the end of a day of teaching is perfectly natural.  Teaching requires a person to be "on stage" from the time he enters the building to the time he leaves.  As much as I loathe the modern thinking that we must entertain to educate, there is a bit of truth to that idea.  It might not be immediately evident that my job is physically taxing, but it is mentally and emotionally draining every day.

Lately, however, my sense of pride is fleeting.  Even before Governor Walker's budget bills targeted public workers (and education specifically) for cuts, I was becoming overwhelmed with an understanding that our society looks down upon teachers.

I am frustrated that my professional voice, the one that I have worked long to develop, is being ignored in so many ways.  I am also frustrated that those in a position to demonstrate support for me and my fellow teachers have done little to let us know what we are worth.

I am exhausted bordering on depression everyday now that it has been made perfectly clear how little my contributions to society are valued.  This goes beyond money and benefits; this also goes beyond the town of Mauston.

 A few people with the right amount of power and influence have for far too long portrayed my profession as populated with “slobs,” “those who can't,” and the “lazy”.  These are all too ridiculous to even consider.

Everyday that passes without a substantial show of support from the community plants more seeds of doubt and despair in every teacher's heart.  Good people will leave this profession because all of the evidence tells them they are not valued.  Others will have to leave because they cannot financially support their families on what is eventually left to us.

What gives me hope is that I know that this disregard for my profession isn’t universally felt.  In the last year, I experienced some terrible times.  I know that I am valued because in those moments many people supported me, including my students.

A former student stopped by school last week.  This visit meant the world to me.  That is what I ask you all to do.  Let the teachers you remember know that you value them.  Email, call, snail mail, or visit.  Do more if you can; but please do at least one of these.

4/1/11 UPDATE: My letter was published in the Juneau County Messenger on 3/24 and received a response on 3/31.

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