Working beyond classroom

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John Pawlak said a mouthful a couple weeks ago, but he usually does.  I want to add to his teacher appreciation column.
 Recently, and it was during teacher appreciation week, a student asked me if one needed a college degree to be a teacher.  A while back a student asked me if math teachers get paid more than P.E. teachers- because math is harder than P.E.  
My son has graciously pointed out to me that teaching is at the bottom of the professional totem pole and Foreign Language teachers, that would be me, are at the bottom of the bottom.  I ignore him a lot.
As Mr. Pawlak questioned in his article “Is the regard for teaching truly a lost tradition…” That’s what I wonder about.  I have these students who view teaching as an easy job or an easy way to make money.  I am not sure why they think it is easy.  Maybe some of us teachers make it look easy.
 Maybe we do.  I haven’t thought about it.  They only see us work for about 90 minutes of our day and that work is filled with interaction.  Maybe to some of these kids it seems like it would be easy to stand in front of a bunch of kids and try to get them to think.  But they don’t see the behind the scenes work that a teacher does.
I have a student that asks me every 20 minutes or so if I have entered his extra credit.  I am not sure if he notices that I have been standing in front of him trying to conjugate a verb.  It is odd to me.  These students somehow think that some little grading elf grades things.  And then there’s power school.  The online grading system that has made me a horrible parent and a bit of a disgruntled teacher and has created a group of grade junkies- but that is a different article.  I like power school for myself because it makes grading and keeping track of grades easier.  But, I think kids think that I will their grades into the system.  
Us teachers, we do work beyond the classroom.  We plan lessons, some teachers have to plan multiple lessons. We grade papers of all types.  We go to meetings. We answer emails.  We plan more lessons.  We grade more papers.  We answer more emails.  On top of that work there is always something more that needs to be done.  There’s that kid that is homebound and needs all his work sent home.  SO we spend a chunk of time preparing materials for that kid. Then we go to a meeting.  
I know it doesn’t seem like much.  You may ask, how long does it take to grade an assignment?  Well, it’s not one assignment- its 35 or 60 or 90 or 120 papers.
Yeah, it’s what we signed up for.  I knew it was part of the job.  I am not complaining about the work, but I somehow want these kids to see that it is a good job worthy of respect.  It is a dignified position worthy of good pay.  It is a challenging career with ups and downs, but lots of ups.  It is a choice that required more than a college degree to get here.  
I ask myself, why do these students look down on teaching as a profession?  Why do they think it is so easy?   Why do they think we are uneducated?  Is it because of what they see out there in society?  Is it because of that lost regard for the profession?  And if so, how do we get it back?
 How do we make the profession of teaching a noble profession?  How do we get policy makers to understand that you get what you pay for?  We spend our day with your kids.  We try to help them and teach them and get them to think and figure things out and to process, but we also try to get them to grow up and be young responsible adults.
I do more than teach Spanish.  I teach people. And I should be at the top of the totem pole.
Christine Bernstein
Los Alamos Columnist