DAY 6: You like me? But do you like me like me or just like me? #Edblogaday (Forewarned: This one is a bit of a rant.)

At the end of my first year in NYC I was not working in my chosen first career but in a huge multinational law firm in Midtown Manhattan. I had culled together paralegal-ish skills over the years, growing up with parents who worked in firms and after high school landing a magic temp job with the Washington AGO working on the case that is now historic against Big Tobacco. I remember sitting in that little cubical in Midtown, learned how much a first year attorney makes right out of law school. It was staggeringly eye opening. Especially when I considered the work they did. No offense to lawyers, but this kind of law was not changing the world.  It was a pissing match between corporations for patent violations or copy-write infringement. I couldn't believe someone was making that much money to argue.  I had never made more than 30,000 a year working in the arts.  It was ok, but this was way before ObamaCare so things like insurance were invaluable when I had been able to work enough days in a row as a freelancer to maintain my coverage.

I will say this, the lawyers I work with and the paralegals on the team worked 60+ hours a week, not unlike we teachers.  While lawyers can take home upwards of 130K a year to start, me, with my NYU diploma in hand, started at 51K a year.  I know this is more than most of the country, but it is also one of the things that keeps me teaching here- there are very few places in the US that pay teachers as "well" as NYC DOE does.  But, in looking at the numbers, it is sad, isn't it?  Does this mean that people working in the private sector, who have the same pedigree as I do, are respected more because they make more than 2x as much to start as an educator does.  The Bar Association for each state sets, and upholds standards that lawyers have to meet, not unlike NYS Education Department.  How do teachers know if they are respected or not?  Lawyers and Doctors get respect because of the title.  Teachers, almost never.  

The summer before I started graduate school, I was at a party with theatre friends and there were a lot of new people so I was participating in the requisite small talk.  I was engaged in conversation with an actor who asked me what I did, and I said, "I'm a teacher." BLANK STARE. BLINK. BLINK. The guy turned and walked away from me.  Before changing careers, when I would tell people what I did, "I'm a milliner." I would get Oooohs, and Ahhhas.  It was cool, unique and people wanted to hear about it.  The only people who want to hear about teaching are other teachers.  It's true.  

I have thought a lot about why no one really cares to hear about teaching.  

Maybe it's because EVERYONE has experience with teachers, if they are lucky they have more positive feelings about them than negative, but it's inevitable that everyone has had some negative...  

Maybe it's because as people become parents, their focus shifts and it's now through a different lens.  Parents should be the first line of advocacy for a child and school can feel arbitrary and parents can often feel powerless and ill-equipped to really support their kids.  (A day does not go by that I don't see a post on Facebook from friends who are frustrated with Common Core Math.)...

Maybe it's that people think that anyone can teach.  Any teacher worth a damn can tell you this is just not the case...  

Maybe it's because of the constant barrage of messages in the media that say really horrible things about teachers...

Ultimately, I wish I could say that I will know what it looks like when our profession is respected the way other professions are, but I don't. 

I take the small wins as signs of hope. 

Small wins like the 7 minute conversation I had on the phone with a student tonight at 7:30PM where I was able to do two things:

1) Thank her for reminding me that feedback is more valuable than a grade (and one of the reasons I believe that going grade-free is the best move for my AP students next year) and 

2) Talk her through what I understood that she did in the writing of her essay in a reflective and effective way and offering next steps to support her continued preparation for her exam on Wednesday.

Until we have respect, I'll maintain hope.


  1. Meredith,
    It is certainly a well-written, effective rant. Thank you for sharing. The small wins are what keep us going, aren't they?


    1. So true, Denise. It is about the small wins, especially when the big wins seem unfathomable. It's funny - I was at a ceremony for a fellow teacher earlier this winter who was receiving a teaching award and it was the first time that someone I knew was recognized for exceptional teaching. It was well deserved and I was honored to be there to celebrate his work. Maybe recognition should be the sign of respect. I often find myself on the NYC subway in the morning picking out who the teachers are...we stand out and I salute them. This is the best hardest job I have every had.

  2. Meredith, it's amazing the reactions one receives when telling others they are a teacher.It is the hardest job on the planet. I often wonder what I would tell my daughter if she told me she too wanted to be a teacher. I'd like to think I'd give her a high five. I think us educators must make our own positive press. No one else is doing it for us! So ROCK ON, M! Keep doing your teaching thing : )

    1. Thanks Cat! I have had a number of students over the years (I am child free) that have gone into education and I see that as a win for education that there are still people who want to do this work! It is hard, hard work but I to will keep speaking up and speaking out for teachers. -M

  3. Great post Meredith. I, too, see the 10 posts a day about common core. I also love the ones that say I get paid too much for too little and I get summers off :) I *Hope* for the day when Ts are respected for their dedication, caring, et al.

    1. Yes Karen! Me too. On all levels, not just from non Ts.


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