An open letter to Governor Matt Bevin:
As a teacher in the great Commonwealth of Kentucky, I’ve listened and taken part in lunch time conversations filled with opinions on Governor Matt Bevin’s most recent comments regarding state workers, public pension benefits, teachers who would leave their job for their own personal interests, and I quote, teachers “sticking it to the taxpayer” by hoarding our sick days.
Before I touch on Governor Bevin’s remarks, let me start by saying, like so many other teachers in Kentucky, I am a proud teacher. I started my 7th year of teaching, all in the same small school district in the state of Kentucky, earlier this month. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I had moments where I strayed a bit from the path, but in the back of my mind I always knew I would be a teacher. After all, teaching is in my blood. My mother has been teaching since I was a little girl; she was actually my kindergarten teacher! She is currently finishing up her doctorate degree and has numerous degrees and certifications, all in the education realm. She is a highly educated woman, just as most teachers are. She is truly skilled in her trade. She will probably be paying off these student loans for years to come, but she is a master teacher, as are thousands of other teachers in this state. She is a lifelong learner and teacher who didn’t become a teacher for the fame and glory, but because she wanted to have a positive impact on the life of our student’s with special needs. Her true passion is working with our students on the Autism Spectrum, and by all accounts, she is absolutely incredible at what she does. She has been teaching for well over 20 years, and I don’t see her stopping anytime soon.
I knew from a young age that teachers weren’t just teachers during the school day. Teachers work long hours both before and after their contracted time. My mom could be found in the school building at all hours of the night, whether working on IEPs or coaching one of many sports. Teachers are on the clock when they’re doing their grocery shopping and they are stopped by a parent to chat about Johnny’s latest quiz grade. Teachers have way more papers that need to be graded than their 50 minute planning period allows, and that planning period seldom exists because of state and federal mandated IEP/504/PLP meetings along with parent phone calls, conferences, making copies, prepping for the next day, analyzing data and ensuring your head is still on straight.
To say I’ve never met a lazy teacher would be an outright lie, but it would be an even bigger lie if I said that the majority of teachers didn’t give their absolute all each and every day. Teachers are held up on a pedestal, and the majority of teachers far surpass that pedestal. We give our absolute all to our students despite having our own families, our own lives, and our own needs that need tending to. We give up family time to focus on “our kids” and what is best for them, even if that means losing precious hours of sleep at night.
Governor Bevin’s statements about both state workers and teachers are, in the least, absurd. Every teacher I know has worked tirelessly for their pension. He/She has put in more hours than will ever be tallied on a time card. These teachers have been to war for their students, fighting to ensure their needs are met. These teachers are highly skilled, highly educated professionals. These teachers, much like doctors, have to make split second decisions that will impact their students forever. And while doctors are regarded in the highest of esteems, teachers, for whatever reason, are being demeaned as sick day hoarding, pension stealing thieves.
I absolutely hate not being present for my kids. My kids need their teacher to thrive and excel, and I know that while we are blessed in having substitute teachers, a substitute can never replace the role of the actual classroom teacher. I hate having to use a sick day, and most districts are seeing a shortage in substitute teachers. I live with both Irritable Bowel Disease and severe migraines. I have remained at school during flair ups where I had to run to the bathroom in immense pain, clutching my stomach with tears flowing down my face, because I didn’t want my colleagues to have to cover my classes during their planning times. I have stayed through migraines in which I have lost my vision because I knew my kids needed me. I would love to use my sick days, and I am blessed to work in a district who wouldn’t bat an eye in giving me a sick day if I needed one, even if there wasn’t a single sub, but I AM A TEACHER. You, Mr. Bevin, have excelled in life partly because you’ve been blessed with teachers who pushed you to become the absolute best version of yourself possible. Teacher aren’t “hoarding” their sick days, but we know the true value of a teacher is in the classroom, not at a home, and we are willing to sacrifice our health and our own needs to ensure that all of our kids, even the ones who grow up trying to take away our hard-earned pensions & benefits, are given the absolute best opportunities possible.
The pension problem in the state of Kentucky has existed for years, but blaming any of the problems on the teachers in this Commonwealth is simply wrong. The teachers are the soldiers on the battlefield every day. We are fighting for each and every kid in the classroom to be given the best education possible. At this point, attempting to place the blame on who created the pension problem isn’t going to help solve the problem, but I can confidently say that teachers “hoarding sick days” is not what caused this problem. I will happily tell you what can fix this problem, though, Mr. Bevin–teachers. Instead of demeaning teachers, ask our opinions. Listen to our opinions. Actually listen. Create councils of educators, not of people who have never sat in a classroom before. Take note of our needs and concerns. We aren’t greedy monsters out for more than we deserve. We simply want to be able to retire after our years of service and live a comfortable life. We don’t need yachts and mansions. Heck, we know those aren’t coming our way. We just want to be fairly compensated for the years we’ve given to our students–the now hardworking men and women of Kentucky.
Instead of breaking down education in Kentucky, lift it up. One of my previous students (a now high schooler) messaged me tonight asking me to read over a paper of her’s. After looking over her paper, she immediately told me she can “always count on me.” I hope that we can say the same of you, Governor Bevin. Change the direction of education in Kentucky. Don’t allow hateful rhetoric to be spread about the great educators in this state. Don’t take away a pension that teachers have spent their entire lives working toward.
I stand with Kentucky teachers. I stand with the men and women who have spent their whole life in the classroom learning and teaching. I stand with my colleagues who work tirelessly to make each and every student feel comfortable in their classroom and give each student the absolute best education possible, no matter the costs. After all, where would any of us be without the education afforded to us by our teachers?