Teaching is Labor; Honoring Teachers on Labor Day

It’s Labor Day, and we’re celebrating the last days of summer which traditionally lead to thoughts of … school. We’re also, let’s not forget, celebrating the people who work for a living and don’t get paid very much, because that’s pretty much the definition of “labor” now. It encompasses all the dirty jobs that make our civilization run: garbage collectors, construction workers, utility workers, retail and restaurant workers, cops, fire fighters, mail carriers, bus and subway drivers, train conductors, sweatshop workers, and, of course, nurses, the folks in the education trenches.

It’s always been mind boggling to me that of all these professions, the only one who isn’t actually recognized as labor is teachers, whether they are pre-K through 12 or higher education.  Part of it is the schedule. Or the perceived schedule: no 9-5 for us. If we’re K-12, we’re off at 3:30 (never mind that we’re in at 7 or 6:30) and only work 10 months of the year. If we’re higher ed? Please. A few hours a week, nine months of the year. Sabbaticals. Paid sabbaticals. For a year. Nobody else gets a year’s vacation. And so on, and so forth. Maybe it’s the fact that we straddle that category line between blue and white collar. Our work requires us to be well-educated but our pay says working class. We make our jobs look easy; that’s deceptive too. It’s looks easy because we’re smart people who are good at our jobs, but making it look easy involves what a friend of mine has always called “skull sweat.” Thinking is hard work too, and only folks who don’t do it believe otherwise.

Whatever it is, teachers have been disrespected as laborers since about day one. No matter how often we say it, no matter how often we describe our work schedules, apparently no one believes that teachers actually work hard. Unless you’ve stood on the other side of the desk, nothing I say here will convince most people otherwise, but here are a couple of infographics about what we do and who we are, and the difference we make in society, anyway. First, about our Pre-K through 12 colleagues…


… and then adjunct professors:

adjunct crisis infographicShow us a little love on Labor Day. Chances are we’re either already grading papers or getting ready for the first day of school tomorrow. And to all our colleagues across the educational spectrum: have a great year! Thank you all for what you do.


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