Ninety days and counting

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By John Pawlak

Another school semester came to a close. Students scurried about searching for ways to improve their grades at the last minute.  

Teachers found themselves staring at piles of papers to review, a mountain of tests to grade, endless emails from concerned parents, and a finals schedule conveniently permuted by inclement weather.  

And in all their voluminous free time, teachers were packing to move into the newly constructed high school.

By sad coincidence or poor design, all this comes together during a season of frenzied spending, aggregating clusters of unpaid bills, and that primordial urge to hunt down and capture that elusive gift for Uncle Earwig, a man who has everything (except a first name that doesn’t make people giggle.)

The end of a semester closes the book (so to speak) on 90 days of learning. 

So with newly fallen snow blanketing the landscape, tinny season music blaring in store elevators, and children savoring every nanosecond of vacation freedom, what better time to pay homage to the educators in our district?

Ah, but before I attempt to say anything good about teachers, we should first ask any Harvard Canucks to leave the room.  

We wouldn’t want to upset anyone who thinks that this country spends too much money on education.  

No sir, we  certainly wouldn’t want to do that! Is he gone?  Good, now we can safely talk about education.

Some Harvard graduates would have you believe that teachers sit back and do nothing.  

They would have you believe that our nation indulges in a glut of educational spending, mindlessly quoting student-teacher ratios and pay scales in an effort to justify cuts in educational funding.  

Of course, people like this already have their degrees and think that they deserve better while others should fight an uphill battle to get the same.

So we teachers take it easy, huh?  Sit back on our pedagogical posteriors and ponder petty pretensions?

Well, it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist or a particle physicist to understand that this simply isn’t true.  

Teachers work incredibly hard, endure enormous stress, and are grossly underpaid.  But that isn’t the worst of it.

What really hurts is when they are unappreciated, often by the very people who benefited from a well-funded education

It seems counter-intuitive that people who are educated would fight so hard to cut educational funding.  

And yet here we are, a school district in one of the richest communities in the nation, with teachers’ salaries averaging less than 5 percent of that for the UNM football coach.

Does this make any sense to anyone with a brain?  Bueller?  Bueller?  Bueller?

A regressive ultraconservative website recently published a “study,” which claims that teachers earn an average of $56.59 per hour in combined salary and benefits.  

Anyone who believes this should be drinking tea with the Hatter.

Ah, but I digress.  If I really wanted to insult idiots, I’d just send them a magnifying mirror and let them have a good look at incompetence.

Politicians debate funding, discuss how to “grade teachers,”contemplate new educational theories, and say whatever they have to in order to win elections. But in the end, it’s all about give and take.  

Give less to the schools and take more away from the kids. I have a good education and I owe much to the teachers who guided me through a world of learning and wonder.  But It’s really not about salary, folks. It’s not about cutting funds or slashing benefits or increasing class sizes.

And honestly, it’s not about teachers either.

It’s about the students and what we owe them.  The benefits of our past demand that we ensure the luxury of a future for our students.  

Winnipeg wisdom aside, we need to take a hard look at the state of education in this nation and realize that we either invest in that future, or watch it disappear.

And although teachers are only one part of the puzzle to achieving that future, why not give them a real season present that they’ll appreciate?  

Say something that so few of them ever hear.  

A simple thank you.  (Okay, you can let the Harvard numbnut back in the room).


John Pawlak

 Los Alamos columnist