Friday 28 Oct 2016

Teacher, Soldier
AJ Robinson

“Tinker, Tailor, Teacher, Soldier.” Yes, I know, that’s not how the poem goes. I use it because I was thinking of it the other day and how it’s such a great listing of people. I thought most of teacher and soldier.

The most ignored and maligned occupations.

The main reason was these are two of the most ignored occupations around. Now sure, when something bad happens at a school and the teachers rise to the occasion and help the kids, we all cheer and congratulate them. When a team wins a big game, we heap accolades on the coach.

The same goes for people in the military. We cheer them, wave the flag and applaud them at sporting events and shows. I worked at a dinner theater-type place that always made a point of asking military men and women to stand before the show and then the announcer would lead the audience in a round of applause.

Yeah, we always cheer both groups, when it suits us. The rest of the time, people malign or ignore teachers and soldiers. How many right wing pundits and politicians have ridiculed teachers as union thugs, incompetent bunglers, only interested in tenure and fat retirement benefits?

Teachers underwrite the costs of educating from their own pockets.

Teachers are thought to work a short day, a short year and get the summers off, with pay. Although I know that myth serves the conservative agenda of demonizing public schools, I know it truly is false.

My father-in-law was a teacher for years; I even did a little teaching myself. When I interviewed for one position, I learned of the hourly pay. It was great. Then I heard what hours were paid: only the actual hours, at school, in the classroom or lab. The school day was six hours long. I’d get a long winter break, spring break and two months off in summer, but no pay for any of it.

I did the math, and suddenly that hourly rate wasn’t so great. When prorated across the entire year, it was rather poor. In fact, it stunk! I couldn’t take the job, I couldn’t afford to take the job. I’d have to get a second job just to make ends meet.

I have other friends and family who are teachers. Although all of them love what they do, they struggle. Teachers routinely go in early, leave late and dip into their own resources to help their students. That sure doesn’t sound like a union thug to me, nor a worker obsessed with a big pension.

I even remember doing bake sales, back when I was a kid. At the time, I didn’t realize how important they were to the school. How much my teachers contributed their own money to help.

Military heroes are often humble.

Then there are the military people I’ve met; many of them are so humble. They don’t feel like heroes, no matter what medals and citations the state awards them. Usually, they just say they were doing their duty, and now they want to get back to living the American Dream.

Unfortunately, many have scars, both external and internal, the latter the toughest to deal with. Yet, again, most don’t complain. As the saying goes, they’re looking for a hand up not a hand out. Interesting how the politicians who are so quick to send our troops to fight are equally quick to slash their benefits and aid.

From my primitive and simplistic analysis, I draw a conclusion. If you want the very best workers, hire former teachers and military personnel. You’ll never find employees that are devoted, men and women that do not mind hard work. They'll go the extra mile and rarely complain. Just one thing though, pay them a decent wage. In my opinion, they will earn it.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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