FLINT - Maybe it doesn't matter to you, but teachers are frustrated with a capital F.
After I wrote a column two weeks ago saying it's time we stopped blaming them for all of society's woes, from low test scores to the economy to crumbling cities, the reaction blew my hair back. The column was "recommended" (meaning people posted it to their "wall") on Facebook more than 7,500 times and comments poured in from all over the country.
Many of those comments were from teachers.
"You can't make chicken salad out of chicken," wrote a man named John. "Parents need to be held accountable, teachers need to be held accountable, and the system needs to be held accountable. You can only beat someone or something down for so long before eventually the feeling of worthlessness becomes permanent."
"I cannot express how much I appreciate your article," wrote another teacher. "I love my chosen profession, warts and all. However, it is getting increasingly difficult to let the hateful attacks roll off my back."
Another teacher named Derelia wrote: "Teachers don't get paid 12 months for 10 months of work. They have to choose to take a 10 month salary over a 12 month period of time or get a summer job. Teacher salaries average $8-$12 dollars an hour lately. They do not work an eight hour day, five days a week. They work more like a 50-60 hour week and weekends. They do not get paid for all of the after hour time they put in. Teachers pay for a lot of their own supplies. They feed their students many times throughout the year. They buy rewards and incentives. The classrooms are not so much overcrowded (as) overcrowded with discipline issues. More than half of the students in public school classrooms have learning disabilities, behavior problems, are hungry, abused, and even left home alone at young ages. Many parents have more than one job and don't spend a lot of time with their kids after school because they are tired as the children. (Teachers) love their students and are expected to work for the love of their jobs."
The most jarring comment by far came in an e-mail to me from a teacher named Lynn: "I'm worn out, and if I can make it through one more year I'll probably retire three years early with a reduced retirement income. I'd rather be a Walmart greeter. I'm tired of trying to raise other peoples' children, tired of the daily verbal abuse and lack of respect from students who learned that it's OK to talk to a parent in the same manner, tired of being held responsible for students' bad choices and their outcomes."
I don't know what comments like those say to you. Maybe you think they're just sour grapes.
To me, though, they say teachers are sick of being society's punching bags, and if we truly esteem the profession as much as we say we do, we ought to be listening to what they have to say rather than heaping on more abuse.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.