Use your teacher voice

By the time the paper arrives in most of your homes and offices the recent “Use Your Teacher Voice!” Education Rally will be over. Successfully I pray since I am one of the organizers.

There are so many wonderful things to being a teacher. I miss it every single day. I miss the enthusiasm, the passion, the opportunity to help a kid become who they were meant to be. I miss teaching history, journalism and psychology and sharing ideas, pushing…always pushing to turn on a student’s desire to learn and to grow. I miss the laughter and the joy. I even miss some of the tears.

When I went into the profession I was not promised a large salary. I was promised a pension that I paid into every single month for 33 years and I was promised affordable health care. Both are now at risk. In fact, unless an infusion of money is found for TRS Health Care for the pre-medicare gap group, one-third to one-half of my EARNED pension will go to health care. God help us if one of us get sick.

I have also worked a variety of additional jobs where I paid social security and because I moved to a new school district in 1990 I had to pay social security for the last 20 years that I taught. Hey folks, I can’t draw on that social security without losing my pension. Where is the fairness there?

Then we have state Senator Bryan Hughes authoring a bill for the special session to prevent association and union dues from being deducted from our pension payments and teacher salaries. First, it is illegal in Texas for teachers to belong to a union. We, like most professions, have associations that require dues for membership. This is a blatant attempt to lower membership in politically active education groups. Want to guess why? By the way, firemen and policemen are exempt from this proposed bill. 

What has happened to society’s value of what educators have done and are doing? Why are rights diminished compared to other professions?

On the Gladewater Mirror Facebook after we posted the information for the rally held at the Gregg County Courthouse, Ellen Walyus posted: “When you work 52 weeks you can complain about being a teacher. Until then stop whining about being a teacher.”

Jane Herring responded with: “Teachers are paid ONLY for days worked…no paid vacation, no paid holidays…BUT teachers ARE NOT PAID overtime for any work done outside of the 8 within 10 within 40 rules as other workers are. Not even paid extra straight time or given comp time.”

Amen Sister! I have attended workshops, trainings and extracurricular camps and competitions often with teenagers in tow year after year on my own dime and of course often in my own vehicle with my own gas.

Let me give you personal glimpses of what being a high school teacher means. It means grading papers for hours after you have managed 100 to 150 personalities in one day and being responsible for their education, behavior, health and emotional well-being as well as their test results. Regardless of how young your children, how ill your parents you can not drop the ball. Even when you are sick. Most teachers find it easier to go to work ill if they can manage and aren’t (too) contagious than to leave their classroom. Even for illness.

Teaching means hours consumed in counseling and caring. It means that what you do and what you say may actually determine the direction someone’s life takes.

Broken hearts, unplanned pregnancies, drug and alcohol addiction, serious accidents, suicides, learning problems, abuse, hunger, lack of medical care, lack of parental care all come into our classrooms and into our hearts.

I have never whined about being a teacher. I loved it. Passionately. All we are doing is trying to protect our EARNED benefits. What I am wondering is what happened to our earned RESPECT?


Susan Bardwell is co-publisher of the Gladewater Mirror and a former teacher. She recently served as organizer of the Use Your Teacher Voice education rally.