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Friday, September 14, 2012

On Throwing Shade.

I'm about to get up on a soapbox, so brace.

I was minding my own business yesterday, checking out my Twitter as the kids napped after we actually got out for the day, when I came across this tweet:
And, to be frank, I'm livid.

I'm livid because I'm tired of people making presumptions about others when it comes to their economic place and the priorities they have. I'm livid because I'm frustrated with people seeing something and assuming they know the whole story, and making judgement based on the shit that's just in their heads. I'm livid because I AM SICK AND TIRED OF PEOPLE VILLAINIZING TEACHERS FOR WANTING TO BE TREATED LIKE AN ASSET TO SOCIETY AND NOT A BUNCH OF EFFING BABYSITTERS.

Let's step this back a minute, shall we?

I don't know this lady. Neither do you, I'm guessing. You don't know her life or her living situation, so to pass judgement on the fact that she has a designer bag really just makes you look like an asshole. Maybe it was a gift, from her parents or her husband or her girlfriend, for graduation or an anniversary or just because. Maybe it's something that she saved up for, slowly, by taking on extracurriculars in school or a second job all together (as many teachers do), or maybe she opted for the lower-cost medical plan and just doesn't go to the doctor until it's necessary so she doesn't have to face the higher co-pays and restricted medication choices. Maybe she scored it at a consignment shop or on eBay for a steal. Maybe it's even fake.

But you know what? It's none of our -- yes OUR -- damn business.

Because out of all the soul-sucking back-breaking capitalistic-pleasing jobs out there, she spent the time and the TUITION to educate children, knowing she would never get rich, knowing it is for the most part a thankless job, knowing that she'll be lucky if she manages to reach just one kid, just one, and help them become something great.

I don't know a lot about the strike in Chicago, and that is very much on purpose because my anxiety levels are high enough as it is right now, they don't need exacerbating. I DO know that it's about a 16% pay increase over four years, despite what some news outlets would have you think, and I DO know that it has to do with standardized testing being the sole marker of which a teacher's ability is judged.

IN AN INNER CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT. Where 86% of the student population is at or below the poverty line, which greatly affects test scores, and yes, there are studies to prove it.

The role of a teacher is not to teach to a test. Do you want your kids to only learn how to take tests, to guess the right answer if they don't know it, and just screw the rest?

No, and neither do teachers because that's bullshit. No one ever got into teaching to show kids how to fill out a Scantron, and if that was the crux of your educational experience I have deep and heartbreaking sympathy for you. No, for the most part, they got into it because they value education and the role it plays in forming the young people of our society into articulate, independently thinking human beings capable of critical thinking, reasoning, logic, compassion, empathy, bravery, courage and FREEDOM.

And I'm fucking tired of people taking pot shots at teachers, when more often than not, GOOD teachers are the reason why your children and mine will be functioning members of society. And a test score can't tell you who a good teacher is.

Education is the single key to civilized society, full stop. And here in the good ole US of A, we treat our teachers like shit on toast and then want to know why we're damn near last in math and science skills worldwide. Well, how would you like to live in constant fear of losing your job between lost state funding, failed levies, and less-than-desirable test scores? How would you like to always bring work home with you, always be trying your best and thinking of new ways to engage and connect with your students, and then be yelled at by parents who think you somehow don't work for your paycheck? How would you like to fight for your right to be paid a comparable living wage to the cost of living for your area, just so you can pay off those student loans you took out for your licensure and be able to eat more than ramen and be told that somehow, you're ungrateful and you're not worth it? Because you get "summers off"?

Most people would rather kill themselves. And about half of people who get into education can't handle it, and they get out within the first five years. Because it's not the walk in the park someone sold them. It's hard effing work and it is not for the faint at heart.

I'm tired of people being close-minded about appearances versus reality. I'm tired of people who look at that photo and say disparaging things without actually talking to that woman and asking what her personal reasons for picketing are, or having the balls to ask her how she has that purse.

Because you know what? One of the most crass, classless, and and selfish things you can do is judge someone's book by their cover. More specifically, to act as if someone could not possibly be struggling because they happen to own nice things, or to chastise someone for striving for nice things because they currently are in a rough spot, well, that just makes you look heartless. And god forbid you, shade thrower, ever end up in rough times and you have someone look at you and your wedding bands or your designer purse or your iPhone and have them tell you that you don't deserve those things because you're temporarily poor and that means you get no nice things ever, because you're not embodying that person's stereotype of struggling, lest you come to know what it feels like to be chastised for clinging to the reminders of better times and the hopes for them to return and have to make hard choices that most people never have to fathom.

I try to be honest, here, about our lives as they are affected by our sole income deriving from a public school system. And I have been blasted for it, time and again, because basically some people believe that if you're anything below middle class, then you never get to splurge or refuse to settle for second-best because you should just be grateful you have anything at all.

And you know, we are incredibly grateful. We are grateful that Kyle works in a building with supportive administration and for the most part, awesome coworkers, and that he has been presented opportunities to contribute to his building and to the district that have made it possible for me to stay at home with the kids without either of us having to work a shit job for shit pay to make ends meet. We are grateful that there are state programs and agencies in place that help fill in the gaps for our family's care where our insurance lacks. We are grateful that we have friends and family upon whom we can lean when we need to and for whom we can be there when they need it. We are beyond grateful for the kindness and generosity of the people who have provided us with nicer things than we can currently afford or the resources to acquire nice things because, yes, even poor people appreciate being treated as human beings worth kindness and empathy, because we know more than most what it's like to be regarded as less than worthy.

We are lucky that we have people in our lives that support us and make sure that we have both the resources we need to provide our children with the best opportunities and experiences (that's why we have an iPad, folks -- my dad bought it for Kiedis to work on his speech and fine motor therapies, but you wouldn't know that without asking, would you) and that those same people believe that we are deserving of the creature comforts that so many take for granted.  And for the rest, we work hard, we go without, we make choices and we hope they're the right ones and we ride it out as best we can, as best as anyone ever can, really.

But that doesn't mean that things couldn't be better, and that doesn't mean that our rights aren't worth standing up for. And, as my sister (a former teacher) often reminds me -- nobody can tell you how to spend your money but you. You don't have to like it, but I guarantee there's a whole group of people who would look at your life and your choices and tear you to pieces over it, so it's probably best to just mind your own, don't you think?

So, to the people who want to look at that photo of that woman and snark, I kindly hand you this extra large bucket of STFU, and my family and I will ask you to think long and hard about how you view and treat the educators of America before you open that hateful mouth again, lest we have to wipe it clean off your face.


  1. Sing it, sister! Totally agree with you.

  2. Thank you! I saw someone post on Facebook the other day a quasi-literate rant against someone shopping at Whole Foods with food stamps. Even though I hadn't seen or talked to the guy in about 15+ years, I couldn't resist responding with "so poor people don't deserve to eat healthy food?" and then quickly defriended so I wouldn't have to deal with the baseless and ignorant sputtering about "hard work" and "earning" shit.
    This is the problem with our society - I'm all for capitalism, and have generally considered myself a libertarian - but good, basic education and healthy food shouldn't be things attainable only by the wealthy.

  3. EXACTLY! We make it a priority to eat organic in our home, which does make it difficult at times to have anything extra in our budget, but to me, our health & well-being are worth it.

  4. I so agree!!! My parents were both teachers. It is a thankless underpaid job, and most of them LOVE what they do!

  5. Megyn @MinimalistMommiSeptember 14, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! As a child of educators, I COMPLETELY understand the judgment teachers get and the lack of appreciation for the hard work they do. My dad is retiring at the end of the school year after 20 years of teaching. And the horrible part about teaching is that I have seen firsthand the growing expectations teachers that does not include a pay increase. For example, my dad is now expected to break ALL of his curriculum to show how each part is meeting certain aspects, like social skills, etc. It's insane. I really respect anyone who chooses to become a teacher these days as their workload is ever-increasing and parental expectations are growing exponential.

    And as for the judgment aspect, I could not feel you more. We too utilize public assistance and aren't living the stereotypical "poor" life and receive a TON of flack for it. My husband is in a thankless job that is also under-appreciated. As an EMT, he makes significantly less than the dispatchers and his employer (and the industry) sees him as easily replaceable. Thus they can get away paying them peanuts when these are the people responsible for saving our lives. It's absolutely ludicrous! And even when I explain this to people, they see us renovating our house and complain that we REALLY aren't that poor or shouldn't even take gov't assistance. They never ask if we've saved. And if we do admit to our savings, we are again chastised. I feel like it's a never-ending cycle of judgment for those who are considered poor. No judgment is good enough unless it's one that fits their stereotype vision.

  6. LOVED this. Shared it on Twitter :)

  7. I'd prefer my children spend their day with a teacher that is well compensated for the time they are helping to raise my children. Because lets face it, teachers are with our kids more than we are during the week. They help us to mold our children. Under compensated means frustrated and angry. Do we really want that taking care of our children? As far as the bag the judgemental douche canoes can STFU and go about their business. *end rant

  8. I came via BlogHer and am so glad to have found this post. While I won't duplicate my full comments here, I will say I am tempted to have handbag buttons made so that we can stand in solidarity with the amazing public school teachers in this country.

    Did you happen to read the incredible article on three generations of public educators in GOOD magazine earlier this year? I'd be happy to email you the link if you'd like. Love that magazine and that piece stayed with me.

  9. Thank you so much! I'm glad you came over from BlogHer and liked the post!
    (A) Please make pins! That's an amazing idea!
    (B) I didn't see that, but I would love the link!

  10. Well said, lady! Very well said. If people would stop rushing to judgment about others, things might be a lot more pleasant.

    I'm definitely sharing this post.

  11. Perfectly stated. Teachers were such a big part of who I became and how I learned. I'm sick of the way they are treated, and I'm sick of the commentary about what they wear, how many hours they work (yeah, they get summers off - after working way way way more than 40 hour weeks, with no vacation time, during the school year), etc etc etc. I'm sick of hearing "run a school like a business." Excuse me, but if you're running a business making, say, cookies, you can return ingredients that aren't grade A ingredients. Teachers? They can't do that. So you cannot judge all of the end product by the strictest "quality" standards some politicians came up with arbitrarily. If we fail to support education, our country will fail.

  12. THANK YOU!!! I agree 100% with everything written here!! There are 3 people in my family who are teachers and you won't find harder working or more dedicated people in the world. They go in early, stay late, bring work home with them and buy classroom supplies out of their money because the school can't afford to buy them. They coach teams in their "spare" time, tutor and mentor and it never seems to be good enough. We will pay movie stars millions to entertain us and give our children body image issues, we will pay professional athletes millions to teach our kids that winning is everything so take those steroids to stay on top. But we can't pay the teachers that try to form our little balls of clay into contributing members of society a living wage. And apparently, we can't allow them a single bit of something extra, something nice. Shame on us.

  13. i totally agree with what you said. I would like to extend it to others too, mainly the working and lower class. In my neighborhood, rent is cheaper because the places are not nice and the neighborhood is not as safe. So the people who live here are generally lower class people (though i hate those terms.) sometimes there will be a nice car here and there. or you look in a window and see a huge tv, or any other similar thing. i try to explain to people that people have different priorities. Personally i like to go places, so i dont have a nice car or apartment. some people really like a nice car. others might not do anything but watch their huge tv. we dont know these people or what situation they are in. Everyone should just stop judging others.