<b>Teaching English in Binyamin</b>

EFL English Teachers in the Benjamin District of Israel

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Calling?

Israel is in the midst of a rather complicated teachers strike. Complicated, since we have two teachers unions. One is striking and the other signed the government's demands. The government offered a contract based on "reforms" which would drastically change teachers work contracts and conditions. Lots more required hours in the schools for a a "slight" raise in salary. What it boils down to is less money per hour, but more per month and lots more rigid demands on teachers' time.

To say that teachers aren't united concerning the strike is an understatement. Not only is the dividing line union membership, but some teachers want to switch to the other union. And some teachers feel very guilty about striking.I'm part of an online discussion group among teachers. The strike, its pros and cons, is the main topic. Recently, someone wrote that he felt that striking conflicted with his "calling" as a teacher. A "calling?" Isn't that a religious term?

Teaching is a profession, which demands academic training, like a doctor, nurse, lawyer, CPA and computer programmer. Nobody demands that those professionals "make sacrifices for their calling." Only teachers are expected to both study and constantly update their professions, while at the same time, they're made to feel guilty for expecting a proper middle-class salary.In the teachers room we mention, in awe, the superior salaries our children receive, even though they may not be as well educated. I often do I hear my fellow teachers saying:

"My children won't go into education. They've seen my salary slip."

I've worked at a number of varied professions, and I really love teaching. A successful lesson gives me a great feeling, but it doesn't pay the bills. The teachers I meet at professional conventions are on the verge of retirement. We wonder who will replace us. The younger generation thinks we're fools. They wouldn't want to put up with what they know we put up with. Teaching's not easy, but getting a salary that's lower than average wage is an insult.

Unfortunately, too many teachers are under the misunderstanding that they're doing some "holy work" and shouldn't let the students suffer. Teaching is a talent, a skill and a love, but it's not religion.

Teachers must demand to be treated and paid as academic professionals. Otherwise the governments and society will continue to abuse us take us for granted. Yes, "abuse" us. The striking teachers are not responsible for their students' bad behavior. Just like during summer and the long holiday vacations, they have parents who are supposed to supervise their actions.

To be a teacher is not to be a babysitter. It's also not a "calling." It's a wonderful, challenging and rewarding job for those trained, talented and lucky enough to be teachers.