A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, October 03, 2010

There ain't no way in heck.

So apparently, the latest qualification to be considered an excellent teacher is to give kids and parents one's cell phone number so that they can reach you at any time.

TFA says we should do it. Michelle Rhee says we should do it.

Well, to subside into my Okie lingo, I ain't doin' it.

Here's the deal: I pay for my cell phone with my own money. It is not subsidized by the district. I got it when I had kids of my own so that I could be able to be in touch in case of an emergency. I do not give out my cell number to just anyone. Now, in a moment of weakness, I gave the thing to my principal, but so far the only thing that has happened is that she gave my number to a flunky at the district offices who needed to apologize to me (it's a loooong story). That, and I did exchange numbers with Good AP so I could tease him about football, and that's been fun.

But back to the point. Apparently, there is the educational equivalent of the "Madonna/whore" complex going on right now in the criticism of American teachers. Either you are a self-abnegating martyr who has no personal life nor has any right to expect one, or you are a tenured, lazy vampire sucking life from the government teat who has no concern about your students. It's like we're living in 1922 all over again. My grandma was a teacher in 1922. She had to live with a family in town so that she could be chaperoned. It was required that she be a member of the Baptist Church in the tiny Oklahoma town in which she was employed as well as a Sunday school teacher (2 for the price of 1!!!) and God help her if she didn't attend church every Sunday. Once she got married to grandpa, she had to quit. She had no privacy, she had no independence, she had no options.

Students and parents, I do not live in 1922. I will work my butt off for you during the school day and for an hour thereafter. I am available every day after school and I have a class website. But when I do leave school, I am now on family and personal time. You have no right to my cell phone number or to my personal email. You can already reach me during the work day. And that doesn't mean that I don't care deeply about my students. But I refuse to just go along with the current conundrum facing the American worker over productivity. I am extremely productive during the day. But I am just as certain that that productivity entitles me to some time on my own during the time I am not on the clock. This includes, weekends, evenings, and summer-- all of which is unremunerated free time. I get no paid vacation and two personal days. And I am fine with this-- until you decide it's your right to encroach upon that too. It's like that phrase from the labor unions of the 1880s: "Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what I will."

The only reason why students or parent would need my personal cell number 24-7 is if the student themselves are either overscheduled or are putting off doing my assignments until late at night. And in either case, the solution is not in my hands. I also have a life. I also have a family. And they serve some consideration, too.

I tell you what: when the principals and administrators give me and the parents their cell phone numbers (on their taxpayer-supplied cell phones), I may reconsider. But I doubt it.



At 10/3/10, 2:40 PM, Blogger Polski3 said...

Hear ! Hear ! Bravo! I have never given my cell number to anyone.....can't give what ya ain't got. (Yep, Polski3 does not have a cell phone!) Nice comparison/statement of the facts regarding current erroneous beliefs about teachers....guess I am a vampire, but arn't vampires supposed to be cool now? Then again, I look nothing like the vampire dudes that are currently popular....

Great post!

At 10/3/10, 3:09 PM, Blogger Ricochet said...

You are absolutely correct.iiiiki

(The last bit was from the kitten as she walked across the keyboard. I decided to leave it. So, Baby says "iiiiki!"

At 10/3/10, 8:33 PM, Blogger Pissed Off said...

My sentiments exactly

At 10/3/10, 8:47 PM, Blogger PamelaTrounstine said...

AMEN, sister! When I became a sub, before i was a teacher, I had to triple the # of minutes on my phone to deal with the robo-calls, it took 3 districts to get full-time work, so even if booked with one, the other two would call until late and early in the morning and even if I shut the phone off, the minutes counted, and the "invalid, invalid" message filled up my voicemail.

At the rate teachers get paid, it's a wonder many can afford a cell phone plan, but of course it is a necessity, since it's a rare thing to get a message from anyone but a very angry parent in a timely manner.

At 10/3/10, 11:15 PM, Anonymous Kari said...

Not that I'm saying you have to give people any number, but I use Google Voice, which is a free service, and I LOVE it!!!! Basically, you sign up and they give you a phone number, and you can have it forward to any number you want it to, or not forward it to any at all (you have to have it forward to a number just to set it up, but you can immediately turn the forwarding off.)

I absolutely love it because it's free, it transcribes voicemails and sends the transcript with the actual voicemail attached to your email, so mot of the time you don't even need to listen to the message (it's generally that accurate.) You can also use it to text for free from the web, or make free local toll/long distance phone calls.

Other nice plus--you can set the hours you want it to ring your phone (or, like I said, not have it forward at all) and you can set certain numbers to go straight to voicemail (for example, if you have a parent/student who is more needy than the rest.) Also, you can save and search texts and voicemails just like if it was email in your email box, and if you have someone prank-calling you, you can block them completely by clicking on the call and clicking "spam"--voila! No more calls/texts from them, EVER.

I can't even tell you how much I love it. :-D

At 10/4/10, 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second the recommendation for Google Voice...it's just too awesome to not use.

At 10/7/10, 1:48 PM, Blogger Mr. McGuire said...

The only reason why students or parent would need my personal cell number 24-7 is if the student themselves are either overscheduled or are putting off doing my assignments until late at night.

Oh my gosh, are trying to put responsibility back on the students and the parents. That would never do. :)

At 10/7/10, 9:09 PM, Anonymous Mrs. H said...

You have 100% agreement from me! I made the mistake of giving out my cell phone number my first year of teaching. Boy, did I regret that. Parents calling at 11pm. Students prank calling. Weekend phone calls. No thank you! I know that we're supposed to be superhuman, and being a teacher is supposed to define us 24/7, but those are some unreasonable expectations. Even a CEO has some privacy and time to themselves.

At 10/10/10, 10:40 AM, Blogger TopherGL said...

Yes! One of the things I hate about some of the talk about good teachers (Teach Like A Champion advocates this crap) is that they're always working. Always. They answer phone calls, e-mails, stay up until 1am, get up at 6am, and are always "on." That's the definition, according to many, of a good teacher. It's also the definition of a neglectful parent and spouse. Jerks.

At 10/13/10, 12:47 PM, Blogger Julian C said...

Ms. C,

I have been reading your blog for some time, and have often wanted to comment. What's broken the shyness barrier is your insight into the "Madonna/Whore" paradigm.

I've been watching the news coverage all last week - The "Waiting for Superman" inspired look into education. It's really disturbing.

Most teachers I know fall into the former - they spend every weekend planning lessons and grading, summers and weeks off in curriculum writing or in seminars on the next new shiny literacy program.

The latter? I've known a few teachers that were really substandard, yet allowed to keep their positions, sure. We all have. They were a minority.

But this has been posited as the Big Problem with education. So now you/I/all teachers, should be available to our students 24/7. I mean, if we're REALLY dedicated.

This field's become pretty untenable.

At 10/13/10, 12:54 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Julian, and the whole problem is that no one else would put up with such demands on their time in their jobs-- except physicians, and they got a whole lot more pay-- and respect-- than do teachers.

At 10/13/10, 1:40 PM, Blogger Crooksea said...

Indeed, Ms. C. Although I'm hard pressed to think of a time any doctor offered me their private number to call if I had a problem. Even physicians are considered within their rights to demand that their time outside of the office is their own.

This is the only "helping" profession that's being called upon to do this. And - to your point - without any financial or social benefits.

It's no wonder that it's difficult to find an maintain good teachers. You'd have to screen for a martyr complex.

At 11/7/10, 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawyers give their cell phone numbers to clients all the time, and clients are none too shy about using it.

But lawyers bill for the time on those calls.

At 11/16/10, 8:48 PM, Anonymous Marjan Glavac said...

I taught in a very small town in my early years of teaching. My number was in the phonebook. After getting countless prank calls, I made sure my number was in my spouse's maiden name!
If students need to talk to you, they can certainly do it at school.


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