Monday, March 7, 2011

In the path of a storm

It's been a little tough to be a public school teacher as of late. I foresaw some sort of debate about the nature of our pensions occurring at some point in my career. I imagined that at some point in my 40s there would be some grand compromise where professionals my age would either be edged out of the field and / or have the terms by which our retirement income is funded changed. The timing of the tempest has surprised me, and humbled me.

I feel like much of the stereotypes about teachers cast about on the airwaves are simply untrue.

I feel as though much of the rationalizations as to why teachers have it so well, namely that we elect the officials with whom we bargain, are simply untrue, or at least untrue for my situation.

I feel as if two vast armies are arrayed fighting over us and our livelihood, the organized labor who see teachers as a last bastion for the working class pitted against the forces of conservatism who look at us as the critical foundation to their opponents' base of power. And those two armies fighting so loudly seem to be missing middle-ground concessions that might make sense.

What worries me most is the fear that we might be about to throw the baby out with the bathwater as a result of this debate. Will compensation be reduced so much that I will be in a position twelve years from now that I will have to steer my son and daughter away from this profession that I love.

It's an exaggeration to say that I feel beaten in this debate. But I do feel exposed. And I feel uncertain. I can imagine myself doing other jobs, but can't imagine myself as happy and satisfied doing other jobs. Yet in eight or twelve years I might have to look for something more remunerative but less rewarding.

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