Worthy Twitter hashtag of the day: #feministwishlist
I have A LOT of feelings about this, specifically ones I’ve been kicking around in my head about women that I really admire and respect. Something I’ve noticed is that a lot of the teachers I work with have their email signatures set to “Mrs. Blank Blank.” Obviously, none of the male teachers do that, and of course none of the unmarried female teachers say either Miss or Ms in their signature line. And I’m hard-pressed to think of any office where someone, including married women, signs their correspondance this way. Because it’s not really relevant, right? It doesn’t have anything to do with your professional credentials.
So then why is it so prevalent in schools? I’m genuinely boggled by this, and I don’t really want to bring it up, because a) I get the feeling that I’m already seen as kind of a shrill feminazi who doesn’t “get” what their lives are about, whether that’s true or not, and b) I feel like people will think I’m attacking them or questioning their judgement, and that’s really not a place I want to go. I’m just genuinely very curious, and maybe I’m missing something that is positive about the situation, because all I see is negative.
I feel like teaching as a profession suffers because people don’t see teachers as professionals. They see them as people, usually women, who are there because they love kids and wearing wooden school bus necklaces and finger painting and teaching songs about the alphabet and are generally like babysitters. We get short hours. We get summers off. We’re just there until we have families and kids of our own. If we had real experience, skills, and professional integrity, we’d be out DOING instead of TEACHING.
Because of these assumptions, it makes it easier to pay teachers less, to cut benefits, to pack upwards of 40 kids in a classroom and demand success. It makes it easy to forget that most teachers are there in the morning when it’s still dark, and take work home with them and work on it until it’s dark again. That we don’t “get summers off”; that we actually have unpaid time during the summers so that we have to spread out 10 months salary over 12 months. That most of us are passionate about our subject matter. That we all have education, and that we have mandatory continued education every year to maintain our licenses. Even people who support teachers and education can look down on teachers a little patronizingly.
Teachers should be doing everything we can to demand the respect that should come with our positions. A not insignificant side note to this is the fact that when education and teachers are not respected, we end up with an education system that is broken. Like the one we have. Like the one that’s getting worse, not better. We have communities where education funding is cut because it’s seen as less important than almost anything else. We have one of the highest levels of drop-outs and kids that aren’t prepared for the outside world, for college and jobs. Well, some of them. Some of them get to go to much better school than others because education money is doled out in a racist and classist and segregated way.
My students ask why I go by “Ms” and I tell them, “Is there a difference between what you call you married and unmarried male teachers? If not, why does it matter whether your female teachers are married? Do they do their jobs differently? Do you listen to them differently? If so, why?” I feel like it’s a fair question.
I also feel like adding Mrs to your name the way you might add MA, MBA, MS to the end of it is saying it’s an accomplishment. It’s not relevant to your job in any way, unless you feel like it is. Why would you feel like it is? Genuinely? Because then you can say all you want about choices people make, but it still seems that if you feel Mrs is an accomplishment, it looks like you think Ms is someone who is unaccomplished. Someone who hasn’t done something they’re supposed to. Someone who isn’t quite there yet.
It just shocks me some because I’ve been working a long time, and this is the first instance I’ve ever seen where this is widespread and not unexpected. It feels unprofessional, but maybe I’m overanalyzing it. But if you were in an office, and someone started doing that, you might think they were a little regressive and retrograde. Why do different rules of professional etiquette apply to teachers if we are so desperate as a group to be taken more seriously? Not just for our sake, but for the sake of the kids we teach. I’m confused by it all. Any insight would be much appreciated, because these are amazing, strong, vocal, opinionated women who I just love and respect and admire like crazy. I feel like I’m missing something.