The Heroes Who Only Pee Once a Day


Yesterday was Memorial Day and it was an easy day to think about heroes of the military variety, those brave souls who put on the uniform of our country and pick up a weapon to go do whatever we ask of them to help keep our nation safe.  But just a week ago or so, we saw heroes of another stripe, bloodied teachers corralling and comforting little kids who’d just gone through that roaring, screeching, blasting tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.  A picture I saw on the internet featured the lower leg of a young teacher with part of a desk piercing her calf.  It had happened, apparently, when she threw her body over those of her students, trying to protect them from the wind, trying to keep them from being sucked up into the vortex of this terrifying storm and whisked away to Kansas or to their deaths.

We should be getting used to seeing this kind of bravery from teachers.  We saw it happen at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children were murdered and six teachers and administrators, as well, including a beautiful, young teacher named Victoria Soto who hid her kids in cabinets, then lied to the murdering young man, saying her students were in the gymnasium.  Before heading to the gym, he shot and killed Victoria Soto, ending the young life of this new teacher who had done what she needed to do to protect her students.

This past year, bank-rolled by big, conservative money, the Republican Governor of Wisconsin set about dismantling the teacher’s union in that state.  Breaking the backs of worker’s unions in America is what the right-wing wants to do.  Funny, that’s exactly what Adolph Hitler wanted to do in Germany, too. Talk radio morons went on and on about teachers being overpaid, only having to work nine months out of the year, only having to work until 3:30pm each day, blah, blah, blah.  Clearly, these guys don’t know many teachers.  I do.

I know lots and lots of teachers. They all have Bachelor’s degrees; most have their Master’s degree; some have their doctorate. They go to work early and they get home late.  They grade papers at home, have conference calls between dinner and bedtime, put projects for their students together after work, and sometimes pluck troubled  students out of dangerous home situations.  Weekends are often taken up with some kind of school competition, Legos Robotics, Math Mania, or some such event.  Along in there, somewhere, they manage to mow the yard and walk the dog.  They meet with parents who are often angry or resentful and put up with student trouble-makers who manage to keep the rest of the class in some kind of turmoil so that nobody gets to learn. Some of the teachers I know have been hit, kicked, pinched, cursed out, spit on, and head-butted.  Lunch break, for them, is usually about 2pm, and right after that, they get to pee.  And, for most of them, that’s the only time for the whole day!  Sound like a job you’d like to have?

And still, through all of that, they love their students – are thrilled when all the gears grind a certain way until that CLICK! happens and they know their kids are learning.  My friend Sylvia taught biology in middle school.  Her first year was frustrating because there was so much to know and to do, plus, there were two boys she just couldn’t get to connect, no matter how appealing or interesting the subject matter was to the rest of the class.  Late one night, Sylvia slid on her butt down a hill behind her house and scooped creek water into a jar, which she then took with her to school the next day.  Carefully dragging out the microscopes, she paired the students up, smeared some creek water on slides and set up each pair of students so they could see just what was going into their mouths when they drank out of the creek their Mom told them not to. She put the two boys together and they took turns squinting into the microscope.  Walking down the aisle between the lab tables, Sylvia heard one of the boys whisper to his friend, “JESUS – LOOK AT ALL THOSE LITTLE BASTARDS IN THERE!”  It was at that moment that Sylvia knew she had two new students hooked on science and biology.  And she did.  She became their favorite teacher, and they became two of her best students.

It makes no sense to me that the people we entrust to teach our children should bear the scorn of the nation because they have the absurd notion that they deserve to make a living wage.  The crooks on Wall St. who drove our economy into a ditch make millions and millions using other people’s money and nobody seems to get bent out of shape over that.  And, if teacher’s unions are what we need to help bring about a fair wage, health insurance and a decent retirement for teachers, I’m all for it.  They deserve it.  MORE than deserve it.  Collective bargaining is better than no ability to bargain at all.  Indeed, if we really loved teachers like we like to say we do, we would double their salaries and halve their class sizes.

As I mentioned, I know lots and lots of teachers. My partner is one of them.  They are the heroes who only pee once a day.  When I think of the teachers I know, I don’t know a single one who would not have done what those lion-hearted young teachers did to save their kids from harm, whether it was taking a bullet to the heart or a spear through the leg.  God bless them all.






2 thoughts on “The Heroes Who Only Pee Once a Day

  1. Stef

    Your words bring tears to my eyes… Here! Here! I’ve been a teacher for all my life (I’m turning 60 this year) and I have to say I’d do it again. Despite the lack of “professional recognition”, the wages that no other professional with the amount of schooling, the degrees and the years of experience would dream of working for, the right wing harassment and degradation of the work, the time, and the heart that teachers put into their work everyday. We ignore the low wages that are different in every community and across every state, unlike in Canada where it doesn’t matter where you teach or who you teach, every school is outfitted with the same basic resources, and the teachers are paid the same…talk about equality. First Nations people in northern British Columbia receive the same education opportunities as children living on the North Shore in Vancouver… every child receives equal opportunities to become all that they can be. As teachers, however, we say its a labor of love, and “children come first” so we ignore the ignorant ranting of those with hidden agendas, we ignore it when we run out of white paper in May and school doesn’t end for a month, when we go to a child’s house at 1:00 a.m. because they called when the adults got drunk and disorderly and they didn’t know where to run to, and when we need to work a 12 hour day so that we can teach to ALL our students at their individual rates and levels. We let all of the politics drift away because we are there for the children, and we knew it when we began our careers. So we need everyone to lift us up, and hold the profession with integretity so that it can once again be an honorable way to serve our country. We will teach the children no matter what, only pee once a day, and work a 12 hour day… without any complaints, just allow us the dignity that goes with the responsibility.

  2. anita zubere

    I’ve just read thru all your bloggings and do thank you for sharing your writing talent, your brain’s workings and your obviously great heart. I’ve read “Steph’s” reply to your piece on Teachers and was nodding my head in agreement as I did while reading your piece. My wife Lisa has been teaching 33 years. (Hey, hooray! we are legally married!) And like Steph, she’s pushing 60. Yes, like your teacher friends, Lisa has a masters and is a National Board Certified Teacher and yet she STILL is excited about learning something new that will benefit her kids. I agree with Steph’s remark about everyone helping to lift up the profession’s integrity so it can “once again” be an honorable way to serve one’s country. Of course it is! (And I think that idea –of choosing Teaching as a way to serve one’s country–should be promoted!) But, actually, i am less sure of the “once again” part. I’m pushing 70 and during my very-long-ago school years I don’t remember Teaching being thought of as anything but a temporary job for women until they “caught” a man, married & had children or… as way for women, whether single or widowed, to earn a living and if they remained as educators, to get a pension. A pathetic pension then, but pensions weren’t all that common either. Of course that hasn’t been true for many decades. Since the days of teaching-by-rote and children being humiliated by dunce caps and “dumb rows” there have been massive changes. Unfortunately most of those changes charge teachers with a multitude of requirements involving years of on the job education, multiple skills and responsibilities that couldn’t have been imagined even 30 years ago. Gone (thank God) is the dumb row….now “differently-abled,” autistic and even psychotic children are mainstreamed into classrooms. Lisa has three of the above mentioned. In addition to overcrowded classrooms are added all the things you mentioned– i.e., the myriad issues teachers have to put up with on a daily basis. Back in the late 80s when L.A.’s Teachers went on strike, I was in total disbelief reading news articles that quoted citizens who described our striking teachers as selfish ingrates who didn’t care at all about the kids! Such vitriol was not only shocking but also stupidly disregarded the fact that half the profession were parents themselves who certainly cared, in every way, about kids. But even more upsetting than that was the tepid response of the L.A. Teachers’ Union (UTLA.) Instead of defending their teachers on every ignorant charge (talk about the teachable moment!) UTLA was mealy-mouthed. They didn’t fight for the right of their teachers to get a raise overdue by three years or to keep their benefits from being cut. It was a hot mess and teachers were so discouraged, disgusted and down-hearted that many considered leaving teaching and many did. Corporate America was offering better pay in and less stressful jobs. Around that time UTLA wanted to attract male teachers and they put a lot of energy & money into tv ads. Dramatic black & white ads depicted attractive young men in dress shirts with their sleeves rolled up, masterfully chalking math equations on the blackboard (ties loosened to underscore the extreme physicality of their labor?) Immediately following this image of virility was a message written in bold, energetic chalked script across the screen: “Take the Power! TEACH! ( It’s impossible to imagine such an ad being directed to women.) Dramatic as they might’ve been, there was no flocking of men to the profession. I realize I am preaching to the choir here, so I’ll leave it at that. Because i live with a teacher I, too, know many. There are exceptions of course, but the majority of the teachers i’ve met and gotten to know, are the kind you describe and that Steph and my wife are. It continues to amaze me to think about how much she has always cared about her kids and how very much she has given for more than three decades and, remarkably, she continues to do, daily. And speaking of teachers’ quotidian “events,” yes, she too only pees once a day.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *