Life in small town America

Beach Days

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There are very few beach days in northwestern PA, but when they are available they become great times for breakfast at the beach, reclining in the sun, reading books and chatting with friends.

Why do I write about this summer day.  There are several reasons.  Since I have retired from teaching in public education to become a college professor, I have taken time to think about things more closely.  Teachers rarely have enough time to enjoy moments.  We are so busy planning and grading and teaching and advising that we rarely have enough time to stop to smell the roses, so to speak.  Life as a public educator is a never-ending career of thinking to the future things we need to do to make students more successful.  Many times this means spending the whole summer in graduate school, or telling your son you cannot go to a soccer match because you have to write test for tomorrow’s class or telling your daughter you cannot help her do her science project because you have to run a musical rehearsal. You know she will be asleep when you get home.

Thus, my brain thought back to the fact that teaching is a hectic, never-ending, selfless career that requires 60-70 hours of attention each week.  No, you do not get paid by the hour and yes, you must go back to school throughout your career, just like doctors and lawyers, to remain current in your profession and maintain certifications. Unfortunately, folks think you make too much because you only work nine months in a year.  If teachers were paid for the extra 20 – 25 hours per week that they put in to do school work outside of school, the public would not be able to pay for PUBLIC EDUCATION.  As a teacher in a public school, I had to pay for my own professional development and graduate classes.  However, I learned, when I did my principal certification program that the taxpayer pays for administrators to stay current in their field.  Since principals work an average of $40,000 more than a teacher per year, this is hard to process.

Many folks are not aware that teachers spend anywhere from $500 to $1,000 of their own paychecks each year to buy school supplies for their students.  Sad to say it is getting harder for teachers to do in the current economy.  When your child goes to school in the fall, remember that it takes a village to educate children.  There are many ways you can help out at your child’s school.  Drop off a box of colored chalk to your child’s teacher so that the children can practice art during recess.  YOu need to do this because some schools are actually dropping art programs so students can PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE to pass federally mandated exams that tell the public what teachers know about each child already.  Stop by to practice math facts with a small child who doesn’t get math yet.  Make a costume for a musical.  Bring in a basket of apples for the teacher’s room.

There are some special parents who helped me in my career as a journalism adviser and language arts teacher.  For them, I am always grateful.  They are the ones who brought dinner to the whole yearbook staff on a long work night.  These parents are also the ones who came to open house or offered to help chaperon an all night dance to raise money for a drama trip to New York City.  These were my angels.

As I think about those great 34 years, I know I did not get the big bucks that my college friends who are now CEOs or attorneys or doctors make.  That is okay, because I know that by teaching I may not have made a fortune, but, now that I think about it, I DID MAKE A DIFFERENCE, and ‘that has made all the difference .” (with deference to one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost.)


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