My academic teaching career didn’t begin until I was 30 years of age. I’d taught tennis to various age groups from the time I was 15, but that’s different from classroom teaching. Being a teacher was wonderful. I loved it. I think I would be hard pressed to list a bunch of specific reasons, but it boiled down to loving my subject matter (English) and being able to share that passion with my students.
I’m proud to say I taught in a well-respected school district, in a high school that always ranks in the top few in our area. Believe me, we have many, many fine schools in said area. The fact that it was the school I also attended made it extra special for me. As teachers we were expected to be on top of educational trends and to push ourselves. As a person who expects a great deal from myself, it wasn’t difficult to identify with the high standards to which I was held by the school district. I worked hard, most of my colleagues did. I never minded working hard. I wanted to do a good job. I expected myself to do a great job.
To say that teachers have an easy job means someone isn’t familiar with teaching. Though I recognize there are different challenges at each level of education, I am only able to speak to teaching at the high school level. Thankfully I was a member of a very good teacher’s union. Our contracts were usually reasonable. During my career I was expected to teach five classes per day. I received one lunch period per day. So that leaves two “free” periods per day. Free period is an oxymoron. During one of those “free” periods, I would be assigned a duty. For one semester, I would have the duty three times per week; the other semester, the duty was required two times per week. A duty may have been a study hall or a hall supervision assignment. The hall supervision may have been scheduled on the far side of the school. Study halls might have contained 15-30 kids. By the way, our district is touted as having a 14:1 student-teacher ratio. I don’t know in what century that occurred. Over my career I averaged a student load of 120-145 kids per year. In writing courses there were often 30 students per class…and 1 teacher.
Also during free periods I could use the rest room, make a phone call, grade papers,have a snack, answer emails, grade papers, run to photocopy lessons for an upcoming class, see a guidance counselor about a student, grade papers, formulate future lesson plans, research for an upcoming unit, grade papers, etc. Many days all of those activities were accomplished during that 43-minute free period. And on some days, when supervision wasn’t required, I got to do it twice! I have forgotten many other things done during free periods.
This is all under the assumption that the administration is doing its job so that I’m able to do mine. I’m able to say that, for the most part, our administration-department level, school level, district level-was staffed by professional, collegial, and caring people. However, there were small percentages of time when that wasn’t the case. It made my life a living hell and impacted my health. It’s a shame that some individuals must cut others down to size to make themselves feel better. I don’t care to speak on that subject any further.
Through it all, I made a decent salary and received good benefits. And yes, I’m retired. Was I ready to retire? Not really. I had more to give my students but if you recall, there were some negative impacts to my health. My mind and body would not allow me to continue in the manner to which I was accustomed (see also self-imposed high standards). Could I have “phoned” it in for the remaining four years until I reached the 30 year requirement for my full retirement pay (60% of final average salary)? Yes, I could have. Others had done so. In one reactive hissy fit, a teacher used two years of accumulated sick leave as a protest against an extracurricular position he didn’t receive. Unfortunately I have integrity and a conscience. For the first time in my life I had to “give up.” I disappointed a bunch of kids; I let them down. I will always regret that.
So yes, I’m retired. I love it for the most part. While I’m sad that I receive a substantially reduced retirement benefit, I’m happy to have good health insurance. And since I will mark my 60th year soon enough, I am inching closer to collecting Social Security which I have paid into since I was 15. I hope it’s still available in a few years.