Every myth ever conjured about teachers by child or adult is suddenly used to twist together a bizarre caricature. The image of teacher is transformed into that of an immoral, greedy, freakish demon which needs to be put in its place for the good of the children. To that end, the Government is inevitably called upon to exorcise the beast and the demon teacher is legislated back to work.
I have managed to survive two rounds of demonization and legislated exorcism in my career and I figure I am destined to survive another but In the meantime, lets take a look at some of the myths society uses to shape their concept of ‘teacher’ in both good times and bad.
Myth #1: Teachers never leave the school.
I think everyone at some point in their young grade school lives, figured their teachers never left the school. I still remember standing dumbfounded when I saw my grade 1 teacher out and about in the community one Saturday. I still remember asking “Mom! Why is Mrs. MacDonald out of the school?
Myth #2: Those who can’t do, teach
I would say this is the most famous and perhaps most resilient myth out there about teachers but ultimately it is a falsehood.
In my 18 years a teacher I have worked with a former olympic athlete, a CFL lineman, a world-class marathoner, lawyers, a fire fighter, a former military officer, a professional dancer, a touring musician, authors and a myriad of other talented and wonderful people who have come to teaching for any number of reasons.
What is perhaps more inspirational are those who went straight into teaching because THAT is what they wanted to do more than anything else in this world. It is these teachers that are the foundation of our school system and to speak ill of them is tantamount to speaking ill of Gandhi, God or Gershwin.
Myth #3: Teachers are not as well-educated as people in other professions.
Let me just start with this. What a load of stinky horse manure.
90% of the teachers I work with have Masters degrees. Of that 90% most have 3 degrees. A number of teachers I have worked with over the years have had PhD’s and one of my colleagues is finishing up a PhD from Oxford. So if you think this myth to be true… You might want to reassess your definition of education.
Myth #4: Teachers don’t have children of their own.
Even as a Sr. High School teacher I get looks of amazement or an audible “Ew gross!”, when students learn I have children of my own. It is as if there is this belief that teachers take and oath of celibacy or are surgically sterilized as part of some ritualistic initiation into the teaching profession.
Honest, many of us have children and we know what it is like on both sides of the playground fence.
See #Thisismystrikepay for further evidence that we procreate.
Myth #5: Teachers don’t care about kids!
Lets just stop and think about that for a second… Yah you are right. That one is just an outright stupid myth.
Myth #6: Teachers don’t understand how difficult job action is on families
Refer to myth #4
Myth #7: A good teacher can be effective regardless of circumstance.
This myth is a favourite amongst those who are looking to ‘reform’ the education and justify cutting teacher wages, taking away teacher benefits or changing conditions of employment. They say things like “If we had better teachers, our school system wouldn’t be in decline” or “The reason Finland has such a GREAT education system is that they have better teachers”
On the surface it is easy to get on board with this myth and say “YAH! If only we had better teachers!” and as flattering as it is to have people thinking that teachers are capable of overcoming massive class sizes, lack of resources, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, family discord, eating disorders, physical abuse, hunger, medical conditions, bad parenting, learning disabilities… All without any help. It isn’t going to happen.
As fantastic of a teacher as I think I am, there are just some kids I cannot help within the confines of a classroom without the proper supports in place outside of the classroom.
Myth #8: Teachers are not as good as they use to be.
Let’s be honest. Teaching back in the day was a piece of cake. There was nowhere near the complexities in the classrooms of the past that we see in our classrooms today.
If you grew up in Canada and are over 40, your school experience was more than likely very WASP’Y. There was no diversity of any kind when I was a kid. There was no such thing as ESL and if there was, it wasn’t in my school. Learning disabled kids went to a “special school” or they dropped out. Bad kids were eventually kicked out. The curriculum was simple and straight forward. There was no special adaptations or deadline extensions. All anyone needed to do in order to pass was to be present, polite and have a pulse. Life and teaching was simple back in the day, today not so much.
Myth #9: Teachers don’t care about taxpayers!
Lets see… Last I recall, I get a whack of money taken off my pay cheque just like everyone else in this world and it is called income tax. I guess that makes me a tax payer just like everyone else.
Of course we care about the tax payer because you and I are getting hammered to death with rising fees and rates to compensate for the corporate tax cuts the Government handed out when they came to power. This whole mess we have before us today is because of taxes and the lack or misappropriation of said taxes.
Myth #10: Teachers get paid through the summer.
One of the very first conversations I ever had about the teaching profession after I graduated was based on this myth. No I do not get paid during summer. I get paid over 10 months, September through June. Some teachers choose to have their pay distributed over a 12 month period so they have some income over summer but we get paid for a 10 month period.
Myth #11: Teachers can collect unemployment benefits over the summer.
There was a time way back before I was a teacher that this nice little perk was true (in some jurisdictions). Today however, if you have a job to return to in September (Continuing Contract), you cannot collect UI.
If you have a Temporary Contact and do not have a job to return to in September you can collect Unemployment benefits and the tax payer is funding your summer. The irony here is that the Province would like to be able to run the education system as if all teachers were temporary teachers. This would end up costing Tax Payers far more than what the current system does because the Province would be on the hook for paying 40,000 teachers during the school year and paying unemployment benefits for 40,000 teachers over the summer months as well.
Myth #12: Teachers qualify for a full pension after five years.
This fallacy comes from the way a teacher’s pension is calculated. Even my family seems to think this is a truth. “Boy must be nice to qualify for a full pension already!” Is the usual summer time backyard barbecue refrain.
Teachers qualify for a full pension after reaching a factor of 90. (Years of Teaching + Age = 90). This qualifies you for a full pension and your income is based on the income of your best five years.
Myth #13: The teachers pension pays you 100% of working income and all their health benefits for as long as they live.
Don’t I wish! If a teacher reaches factor 90 they can collect 70% of their working income during their retirement years. Health benefits are not paid once the teacher reaches 65.
Myth #14: As a tax payer, I am paying for every last cent of a teacher’s retirement.
I could see how people would be annoyed by a teacher’s retirement package if this were true but the teachers’ pension is 80% fully funded. This means that 12 billion dollars worth of investments, managed through a joint trusteeship between the BCTF and the Provincial Government generate enough revenue to cover 80% of the payouts to retired teachers.
The remaining 20% is funded jointly between tax payers and teachers but the ultimate goal is to make the teachers pension entirely self funding so absolutely nothing comes out of the tax payers pocket. In fact it would be in the taxpayers best interest to ensure this pension fund does become self funding rather than seeing it dismantled.
Myth #15: Teachers can’t be fired.
Well I hate to break it to you but since I have been teaching, I have seen a number of teachers dismissed and it didn’t really seem all that difficult to send them packing. If the union was standing in the way, it acted as more of a door mat than an obstacle
What people don’t seem to understand is that there is a process for dismissing teachers and this process is there to protect everyone involved. Contrary to popular belief, to have a system that allows teachers to be fired on a whim is neither ethical or practical and can result in more harm being done than good.
There you go. 15 common myths about teachers that are just a bunch of bunk. So next time you are talking to the demon in your child’s classroom, remember their horns and devilish red skin are probably made up of myths.