To the Presidential Candidates

I received my first phone call for the 2016 election season the other night.  A stranger from my state’s education association called my house and told me that the education association was pledging its support to a specific candidate.

Personally, I didn’t care who was being supported.

Then, I was asked if I was going to vote.

“Yes,” I replied.

“And who will you be voting for?” I was asked.

Prompted.

I could hear the expectation in the stranger’s voice, waiting for me to say the correct answer.

And I decided that I was not going to play nice.

“I think that’s a private decision,” I replied.

The man’s voice fell in disappointment, he politely concluded the conversation.  We hung up.

I have been called by both sides of the political spectrum.  My vote is incredibly popular given that I’m generally undecided and definitely independent.  In some respects, I feel downright popular given how often people would call me to tell me the wonderful things about their candidates.

Sometimes, I just listen, thank the person, end the conversation immediately.  I don’t like being called at home by strangers who don’t really care about anything related to me other than my check mark or checkbook.

Sometimes, I decide to be a little mean-spirited and ask them about the candidate’s position on education.

“Oh,” the stranger will say brightly and enthusiastically, “so-and-so-candidate supports education.”

This is my cue to roll my eyes and sigh in frustration.

Not because I am unhappy that the candidate supports education.

But what else is the candidate going to say?  “I don’t like teachers or students.  I support an uneducated population.”

So, I try again.  I ask for specifics.  This is when the stranger on the other side of the phone will start trolling through the candidate’s home page (which means the the information is hugely biased and comes straight from the candidate’s writers and not from the candidate’s voting record) and reads to me exactly what the candidate wants me to hear.

“Oh, so-and-so-candidate wants teachers to have smaller class sizes.”

That’s great. I would love the idea to have smaller class sizes.  Currently, my average class is 28 students.  I have one tiny class of 14 students.  The other four are 30, 33, 29, and 28.  So, I guess my math is off.  Not surprising.

I teach 134 students (thank you Google for helping me do the math).  At least once a month, my students hand in a multi-page paper.  Right now, my students have submitted three-page essays.  Therefore, 3*134=402 pages of reading.

Actually, not reading.

Grading.

And editing.

And revising.

And justifying the number that will be on the online grade book.

I usually read a page a minute with high retention.  However, grading isn’t reading.  Grading is evaluation and justifying.  This means that it takes me about three to five minutes to go through a page or so.  Therefore, at five minutes per page, this will be about 2010 minutes.  Which, divided by sixty minutes is equal to thirty-three hours of grading.

For one assignment.

Thank you candidates for wanting me to have smaller class sizes.

Note, the majority of the grading is done at home.

Off the clock.

Which means that I am not going to be compensated for those hours of grading.

Presidential candidates talk about funding education, which means, to me that I might get paid more.  Right now, my school board is voting on next year’s budget which will include a 3% pay raise.

That’s nice.  I do like the concept of earning more money.  But let’s look at some numbers, shall we?

I make roughly $50,000 a year.  A third of my annual income will be taken up by taxes, heath insurance, social security, etc.

This will lower my take-home income by $16,666 (and more sixes to infinity).  Let’s just round this to $16,500.  This is $33,500 take home pay.

God, that’s depressing.

Divide this number by 24.  Because I am paid twice a month.  This means that my paychecks will average out to 1400 every two weeks.  1400X3% is 42.

42 dollars a paycheck.

84 dollars a month.

My daughter will be getting braces next year.  Every month, I will pay 143 dollars for my daughter’s teeth to be straightened.

My 3% raise will not even cover my daughter’s braces.

I have been teaching in my county for eighteen years.  I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.  I have two College Board endorsements.  I am Nationally Certified.

So, please, politicians, don’t tell me that you support me.

Don’t pat yourselves on your back and tell me you understand my needs and my students’ needs when you won’t even offer me fair compensation.

But you will offer me yearly standardized testing even though I have yet to see any research that suggests the yearly standardized testing will benefit my students, will make them more intelligent.

Dear politicians, your rhetoric has become fodder for my classrooms so I can teach students different literary techniques and logical fallacies.

I want to write more.  I try to write a thousand words a day.  But it’s 7:45 at night and I have 134 essays, 58 seminar questions, 15 sets of discussion questions, and at least 50 journals to grade.

I have emails to write, lesson plans to write, activities to write.

I have to finish reading (again) Heart of Darkness.

And be ready for bed in ninety minutes if I’m going to get eight hours of sleep.

I’m tired.  And you just called me again.  And I’m too busy to deal with you.  So, if you don’t mind, please accept my frustrations…and maybe my shoes.

Because I’m known for throwing shoes at students who continually talk and won’t listen, or take a hint….

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