October 30, 2005

Teachers Sacrifice... Right?

Teachers make sacrifices. Right? We give of ourselves, of our time, and of our resources. It seems to be a job requirement that we teachers commit every part of our being to our jobs. And sometimes it does feel like we surrender all. But is that surrender a sacrifice?

A sacrifice is something one gives that costs them greatly but returns something even better. Ancients would sacrifice animals to their gods in return for a strong rain, healthy harvest, or protection from a host of hostile elements. Sometimes it worked. Christians are required to give 10% of their income as a tithe, any more is considered a sacrifice. Most who sacrifice do it willingly in exchange for some thing or some situation they believe will improve their lives.

So too do teachers sacrifice for their students. Teachers give of themselves to improve the quality of life for their students. Whether its through imparting some knowledge, or facilitating a hard lesson in character, teachers give to the students' benefit. But is that a sacrifice on the part of the teacher? What saturating rain, or bountiful harvest or guarantee of protection do teachers get for their personal and costly sacrifice? Better put, what's in it for the teacher? Not much you say? How about those painfully long days without adult interaction? What about the great pay? And don't forget test scores. Well there are those long summers off. That's pretty cool.

Maybe it's not a sacrifice. Since we do not do what we do for the greater personal return on our investment, then maybe what we do do is not a sacrifice at all. Stay with me here. Perhaps what we are really doing is building the future. Think about it. Who else in the global village (I hate that term) is saddled with the responsibility or churning out well-behaved, disciplined, moral, value-filled, hard-working, freedom loving young adults ready to take on the responsibilities of leading the free world and not blowing the place up? Certainly not television producers, alcohol and cigarette sales people, or movie, sports, and musical talents. No. Charles Barkley said so himself.

It's up to the teachers. We are held to a higher standard. I once used the word "bitchen" in class to describe a dance that one of my sixth grade students choreographed and shared with me. She went home and shared my enthusiasm with her parents and grandparents. At a parent conference I sat across from a pair of leather-clad parents who explained that it wasn't that they didn't use the word in their own home, but that I was a teacher, and I had to hold the higher ground. It was my first year.

So do we sacrifice? Well, not for our personal gain. So, no, we don't sacrifice. I hope that doesn't upset you. I know that martyr is on the list of synonyms for teacher (not really). Here is the list from thesaurus. com : abecedary, advisor, assistant, babysitter, coach, disciplinarian, docent, don, educator, faculty member, governess, grind, guide, guru, instructor, lecturer, maestro, master, mentor, mistress, pedagogue, preceptor, prof, professor, pundit, scholar, schoolman, schoolmaster, schoolmistress, schoolteacher, slave driver, supervisor, swami, teach, trainer, tutor. I think my favorite from that list is "slave driver."

So that settles it. We don't sacrifice when we spend hours after school helping kids with make up work for classes that they missed during the day because they slept in late and Mom and Dad couldn't get them to school on time, or at all. We don't sacrifice when we give up our weekends to grade essays written by other people's children trying to help them understand the difference between a noun and pronoun. We don't sacrifice when we can't afford to buy our families they vehicle they need when the students we teach drive to school in BMWs and Porsches. No, that' not sacrifice, that's building the future.

Wow, that's so negative. I can't end it there,