Teacher would like gov. to see what she does

This is a letter that I have sent to Gov. Chris Christie: I am a teacher in the Freehold Borough K-8 School District and have always been proud to be in that noble profession. It is my hope that you will take the time to read my letter, as the negative light that is being cast on teachers is both demoralizing and upsetting to all of us.

Governor, I think it is important that you have an accurate picture of the life of an educator. You see, our day does not begin when the children arrive, nor does it end when the last child walks out of our classroom. If you were to walk through our building, you would see that a majority of the dedicated professionals I work with are there well before the students arrive. We are writing our objectives for the day on the board, making copies, collaborating with colleagues, and preparing the room for the instruction we are to deliver, the instruction that we often spend countless hours (evenings and weekends) preparing in the same way you or any other executive might prepare a report or presentation.

Our day includes teaching diverse groups of students. Some come to us with experiences outside of the classroom and are able to make connections to this outside world. However, a good number of our children are coming to us looking to be nurtured, fed, loved, listened to, encouraged, and protected. Their home problems are so overwhelming that their education is very low on their scale of importance. It is our job to motivate them, discipline them, and respect them while delivering the instruction they need.

Walk down our halls at school and you will see teachers and students engaged in each classroom. Stand outside these classrooms at lunchtime and see children eating with their teachers, chatting, making up missed work, getting individualized help. The dismissal bell may ring, but students and teachers do not rush out. In fact, many stay again for that extra help they may need.

We aren’t looking to be compensated for our time; we love the students in our rooms. In fact, a teacher could not be in this profession unless he/she loved children and believed in the positive impact our profession has on them. Our reward? It is the mutual respect we share with our students, that “aha” moment when we realize they finally have grasped the lesson and experienced success. Our compensation is in the students who graduate and return consistently to share their stories of success.

Most teachers get a half-hour lunch and a 45-minute prep period. We have learned to manage that time so that we can attend to the required meetings, duties and administrative responsibilities that are all part of our job.

We work closely with our administrators to provide the best instructional environment for our students. We are a united team and do not need to be destroyed by the constant negative bombardment that comes out of your office. How does that promote a good educational environment across the state when the governor’s office consistently tries to pit parents and children against their teachers?

I believe, Gov. Christie, that you underestimate our jobs and believe we are in this profession for the money, benefits, and days off. However, I think you should look at the number of teachers who need to supplement their salaries by working during our summer vacation.

We also live in this state and pay the same taxes as any other resident and are stretching our budgets in the same way. We continue to pay into our pension fund (although the state has not) and pay toward our health benefits and feel that we are being unfairly portrayed as greedy, lazy parasites who “use the students like drug mules.”

Toward that end, I am completely offended by your recent comments to a group of children that our NJEA convention is nothing more than time to party and that it should be held in the summer.

What confuses me is that we are in the classroom between 180 and 186 school days and have negotiated the two days off for the convention in exchange for not having off Election Day or Veterans Day.

What difference does it make when we hold our convention? Does anyone dictate when the medical or legal professions schedule their annual meetings? I myself have spent many hours walking the convention floor in search of new and innovative materials and ideas in an effort to improve instruction in the classroom. In addition, I along with many other educators have spent hours in seminars and workshops looking for new practices. We are not partying!

Governor, with all due respect, we are well-educated dedicated professionals, no different than any other individuals who care about their job, whether they are public or private employees. To insinuate or outright proclaim us to be a group other than that is at best ill-informed and at worst downright insulting.

We do not proclaim to know your job and ask that you learn more about the professionals you are denigrating. I would like to invite you into my classroom for a day — no cameras, no press, just you, my students, and me. Then you might have a better understanding of what goes into being a teacher.

Gov. Christie, I want you to know that I voted for you because I believed you were what the state needed in this time of great difficulty. However, if the election were held today, I would be hardpressed to cast that same ballot again. It seems you are attempting to relieve some of the state’s financial burdens by solely targeting public employee unions.

I don’t write letters to public employees, but I am angered by your use of children to make your point, pitting them and their parents against teachers and thereby trying to break the bonds of respect that we build in the classroom. I am serious about my invitation to visit my classroom and trust you will take me up on my offer.

Paula Desch

Eighth-Grade Humanities Teacher

Freehold Borough