Recently a local radio station featured a discussion about the Ethnic Studies issue with Tucson Citizen and Arizona Independent writer, Lori Hunnicutt. I listened to the entire program and it made me incensed. However, I wasn’t angry about the discussion of Mexican American Studies, I have stayed on the edge of that argument because unlike Mr. Huppenthal, the findings of his own panel were enough for me to go to what I saw as more pressing matters. What angered me was before they started their review of intended issue the two radio personalities decided to weigh in on what is wrong with unions. Their comments can be heard here:
The fire in my belly was ignited by their contention that unions exist to get their members as much money as they can, then to focus on their working conditions. Obviously, these two don’t read what I write. But that is OK. What isn’t OK is this continued myth of the money grubbing teacher, just in it for as much as they can get and professionalism be damned.
There, see how angry this makes me, I actually swore!
That event is something that has only happened once in my entire thirty-plus years in the classroom. A few years back I actually said, “Damn!” when something broke during a very frustrating day. I immediately apologized to my class of fourth graders, who were looking at me like a second head had just sprouted next to my first.
One child solicitously asked me if I was “OK?” I laughed and said yes, and told them they should share with their parents that Mr. Severson had said ‘Damn’ in class for the first time in his career. At the time I was working at a school on an Air Force base. I half expected a call from the Colonel. I did not hear another thing about it.
But that is how much it affected me, I remember the looks on their faces, I remember the broken science demonstration that caused it, I remember the two kids who had so vexed me all day long that for one moment I lost my composure.
Why? Why do I remember this incident?
Because I am a professional educator. I have devoted my life to teaching. I teach because I love to teach, I am good at it and I value learning. I never went into this profession thinking, “Now I can make some real money.” And I do not ask my professional association to devote their greatest effort to increasing my salary. I ask them to lobby for the things I need most: funded libraries, adequate working conditions, enough books for every student, technology that works. I ask them to ensure that I am allowed to do the most important thing in my professional career. Let me teach! And I will be damned if I will let anyone say with impunity that I am in it for the money!
There, see, I said it again. But you know what, that’s nothing compared to what my wife the kindergarten teacher said about this.