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This Teacher Is 'Mad as Hell'

Posted: 2011-05-02

This great commentary from Education Week, April 27, 2011, is posted with the writer's permission.

Do you think Bill Gates or Arne Duncan or any of their bully cronies would have any notion of what to do with a class of 37 students? And that's just one class. This English teacher has 5 or 6 more classes. Do you suppose the bullies who get all the ink in the media to say class size doesn't matter know what it means to assign a paper to upwards of 180 students? I confess I fought like hell when my reading job was eliminated and my district tried to force me back into the job of high school English teacher. I fought the transfer because of the impossible mound of papers I knew I'd face. And class sizes were a lot smaller then than what Angela Beeley faces. I remembered crying over the papers, which absolutely consumed my life, and I just didn't think I could do it again. I think we should stop pretending the job of high school English teacher is a possible task. And it's way past time for all of us to be Mad as Hell. . . and to fight for the survival of teaching as a profession as well as for the very existence of public education.

Ed Doerr Comment: Angela Beeley is right. If this movement to curtail teacher union collective bargaining is not stopped in its tracks, it will wreck the teaching profession, discourage indealistic young people from entering the profession, and in the long run do serious damage to all American kids and families. Every teacher, every school admininistrator, every school board member, every parent must get active NOW.

Bombard the papers with letters to the editor. Let lawmakers in state legislatures hear your voices. And let them know also that it is wrong to divert public funds directly or indirectly to private schools not answerable to the public. The time to act is NOW.

by Angela Beeley

I am a public school teacher and a member of a union. Contrary to popular political rhetoric at play in Wisconsin and elsewhere, I am not, however, a leech on society, nor am I a lazy incompetent who shows up to collect a paycheck, not caring whether my students learn. I am a teacher and, in the words of Howard Beale in the film “Network”: I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!

I am an English teacher who wakes up in the middle of the night, puzzling over how to engage 37 students in my third-period in an upcoming lesson. I am a teacher who gives up part of almost every evening and weekend to grade the never-ending deluge of papers. I am a teacher whose job performance is judged on scores from a test that counts for nothing for the students and their parents. I am a teacher of children who have been coldly molested, beaten, ignored, neglected, left hungry, and might not know where they are going to sleep that night. I am a teacher who cries at the end of every school year because, as they leave me, I am reminded of the basic goodness of the students I teach.

I am also a mother, a mother who shops for her family's clothes, including her own, at Target. I have a coupon file that embarrasses my older daughter. I drive a 10-year-old car that my parents helped me purchase. We coexist with termites eating away at the foundation of our house because we don't have the thousands of dollars it would take to rid ourselves of them. My husband and I aren’t wearing Prada sunglasses or jetting to St. Tropez on this outrageous salary my union has negotiated for me.

This misdirected anger at unions and public employees is a sad, cynical manipulation. Are there waste and hypocrisy in unions and public administration? Of course there are! Please name for me one sector of society that doesn’t have these problems. These are human failings, not union failings. And can states spend money they don't have? No, they can't and shouldn't, and hard times call for sacrifice from all in both the public and private sectors. We must contribute, but we must never give up the right of the American worker to bargain collectively.

The outcry against unions and collective bargaining is a complete red herring. The unspoken message is: Let's make the average American forget that Wall Street crooks set up our economy for a meltdown and that, not only are they not in jail, they made money on the deal. Let's make them forget that the richest 400 people in the United States make more than the entire bottom half of all earners. Let's hide the fact that CEOs today make several hundred times what their employees make, rather than the 20 to 30 times more they used to earn. Let's snicker as the workers rip each other's throats out, scrabbling for the privilege of going to the doctor when they're sick.

I have a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, a master's degree from the Claremont Graduate University, and I am a National Board Certified Teacher. I am a professional. And I don't think it's too much to ask to make a salary commensurate with my education, to be able to take my daughters to the doctor, and to retire with a small measure of security after choosing to devote my life to educating America's children.

I love my students, but who on earth does the public--which is accepting these political shenanigans--think will choose to become a teacher now? No one in his or her right mind would go into this profession. After seeing teachers beaten up in the media for our society's failings and being portrayed by our elected officials as lazy fat cats when we are working our butts off to having to “teach” to a test, no student with two brain cells to rub together is going to want to become a teacher. I would challenge anyone—including Wisconsin's governor--who thinks that teaching requires little effort, no summer break, or no decent salary to spend a year in the classroom. Get in there, Governor Walker. You wouldn't last a week.

Angela Beeley has taught at Alta Loma (Calif.) High School for 18 years. She currently teaches 10th grade English. She earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards for the first time in 1999 and for the second time in 2009.

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