Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Union Workers

I recently read a gripe by a teacher who said he works long hours, has to constantly maintain certification, meet obligations that are secondary to his primary work (coach sports teams and the like), work many 12 hour days, and otherwise spoke of many other problems that are attendant to being a teacher.

I understand that being a teacher is a hard, thankless job, that is really tough and doesn't pay as well as many would like. I also think they have a seriously over-idealized perspective of what life is like outside of teaching. I'm going to describe what the rest of the world has to do.

I work in the field of advanced technical support, as does my wife. I work eight hours a day on most days. Sometimes though, I work 48 hours at a stretch. I work with people who are incredibly tense. Our metrics have our clients losing an average of a million dollars for every eight minutes they're fully down, and they're on the phone with me when that's happening. I regularly take phone calls at 3:00am on weekends. On Thanksgiving, I'm taking calls from clients. Christmas? That's for clients too. I may have to fly off at a moment's notice to get to a client site and help calm things down. I truly hope you don't think my kids understand why daddy is working so often. They don't. Let's talk about my wife. She's 37. She had her first heart attack this year. They're very common in our industry. Did you know that?

Let's talk about construction workers. They work on the hottest days of the year, sweating and sunburned, to pay their bills. In many states they can't work during the winter, it's too cold; so they work insane hours during the nine months of the year that it's safe to do so and hope they can make the money stretch.

How about cab drivers? They work in constant fear that some psycho is going to put a gun to their head and rob them for the few dollars they manage to squeeze out of their cab per day. From what I understand, most of them work 12 hours a day and fight for every penny they make.

Let's talk about lawyers. They're famous for working 100 hour weeks. In many states, the pay for being a lawyer is so bad, they are driving cabs! You can read above about what a great job that is! In Indianapolis, a public defender starts at around $30K/year. That's the wage for someone with a JD (that's Juris Doctorate for the non-lawyer types out there)...good wage, isn't it?

Let's see what else we have here. How about title officers? They work long hours and have long weeks and they make little. Their jobs are highly specialized with lots of risk and stress, with little pay.

Amazingly, not a single job mentioned above has tenure or a union defending them from ever being let go or laid off.

I'm not saying being a teacher is easy...God knows it isn't...but don't tell me it's the hardest or worst job in the world. It's not. The pay could be better and the management of it could improve greatly, but it's a good job with tenure, a union, longevity, and respectability. So don't scream and whine like you've been robbed of life. If you don't like it, try delivering pizza or driving a cab for a living and having a gun held to the back of your head while you're made to beg for your life.

Until then, try and realize it isn't the worst job in the world.


P.S. Oh yeah, did I mention that I also have to take Tums in quantities roughly equal to my intake of oxygen.


Blogger Chris Naron said...

I've done the construction thing (roofing and electrical signs) and driven a cab. Driving a cab is easy to do but it's hard to make money. Construction is tough. Teaching comes nowhere near it. And I'm not talking about the contractor who stands around with plans telling people what to do and making big money; I'm talking the grunt work, even if some of it requires skill. Since I began teaching, it has been a vacation by comparison. Sure we work long hours and have a lot of irons in the fire, but much of that is self-directed. If I'm stressed out and want to call it a day, I can leave at 3pm pretty much whenever I want. I can take sick or personal days, there's always a holiday around the corner except in October and March and in most schools, the admin and staff are very flexible and understanding. To a fault sometimes.

Sounds to me like this person needs to find another profession.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Bartleby said...

A Chino native! I'm originally from Riverside!

Anyway, *ahem*...you worked under the boiling California sun? I have all the sympathy in the world for you. I worked as a pipe fitter's helper (i.e. ditch digger - that's all I did anyway) in Santa Ana and Riverside in the summer of '88, and it was horrific. I'd trade teaching for that job any day of the week...and I made precisely five dollars an hour for doing it.

I like the way you describe teaching - it pretty much identifies the finer points of it, and I can only imagine the joy of teaching those few really good kids every year you can really connect with.

If I had a degree, I'd teach - unfortunately, because of an illness that went unidentified, I blew it in high school and quit college to pay bills that I ran up while I was sick. I might volunteer to tutor kids that are bright but not doing well to satisfy the urge.

Either way, it sounds like you like your job and I'm glad for ya. :)


9:10 PM  
Blogger Chris Naron said...

Riverside, eh? I did tons of signs down there. You can't drive down the 91 without seeing my stuff. And usually I wished I was out under the sun. It's 140+ in the attics where you have to wire up the signs.

Anyway, never say never about the degree. I was 25, newly married with a kid when I went back. I maybe had 12 units under my belt. It was rough, but we made it.

On the other hand, you have an indoor job already, so you might just be trading in one set of headaches for another.

3:12 AM  
Blogger Difster said...

I'm going from doing computer consulting (it's like having 10 jobs) to mortgage lending which has it's own stresses.

I don't really think any job that you apply yourself too is easy.

Sure, there are things that are easier than others but for those of us that are driven there is no job that is a cake walk.

I can't really think of any skilled job that isn't attended by it's fair share of stress and hardship. Even the coolest job in the world would either get boring or stressful after a while.

5:04 AM  

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