Here’s What Gene Marks Gets Wrong About Teachers and Snow Days

A Philadelphia teacher offers a passionate rebuttal to our columnist's controversial piece.

Earlier this week, Philadelphia magazine opinion columnist Gene Marks questioned why teachers get snow days. Today, Steve Clark, a teacher and two-time “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia” offers a rebuttal.

Why do teachers get snow days?

The simple answer to this question, Gene, is, well, they don’t get snow days.

No. Really. As Inquirer staff writers Dan Hardy and Larry King informed us, “Every school in Pennsylvania must get in at least 180 instructional days for students.” (It’s in the Pennsylvania public school code.) They precede this by suggesting, “That’s because their districts pad their calendars with a few “snow days” added to the end of the year. That way, everyone knows in advance what will happen if bad weather forces closures, with the extra days canceled if not needed.” But that’s not really fair; I mean, they probably had to Google that or something, and who has the time for that? Certainly not willfully ignorant writers with a shaky soapbox to stand on! You probably had a lot of those Wendy Williams watching, book-reading, overly sleepy teachers, Gene.

But here’s a longer answer to your lowest-common-denominator click bait:

  1. Teachers don’t get paid for 365 days. They get paid for the 10 months they are in front of students.
  2. Every day, teachers prepare and stage an entirely new one-man (or -woman) show incorporating multiple audience participation performances for a crowd that isn’t always enthused to be in attendance. These shows run, on average, 6 to 7 hours. Have you heard of the Theresa Evans Daily Spectacular? The Steve Fromhold nine-hour Science Extravaganza?
  3. Teachers (especially primary) teach children how to read. Do you understand how insanely complicated and borderline impossible that process is? And they teach upwards of 40 children to read at the same time.
  4. Teachers need to prepare lessons, but also prepare to meet their students’ physical, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs. Don’t believe me? Ask Maslow.
  5. Most all teachers are constantly seeking further education: finishing their master’s, completing another master’s, or earning ongoing education credits.
  6. Teachers don’t get the summer off. Not really. Some take full-time seasonal jobs. Others go to school. If they do take time off, they don’t get paid for it.

Finally, A couple of teachers up close:

Gina Trice rises at 5 a.m. every day. She works a second job, and “off” nights she uses for grading and planning. She also regularly meets with parents of her students, with other faculty and support staff, and with her school’s leadership team.

Oh. She is also responsible for her teenage niece.

Dan Kiers, Gina’s grade partner, works 25 hours a week at Bed Bath and Beyond, arriving back home 3 days a week at 11:30 p.m., and arrives at school every day at 6:45 a.m. He has an infant son.

(Most all) teachers work second jobs because they love their profession and, more importantly, they love children. Theresa, Dan, Steve, Gina, and all of the teachers I know are not pseudo-adults seeking laziness. They are among the hardworking, un-praised heroes of Philadelphia. How dare anyone even imply a question concerning their work ethic.

Teachers are investment bankers working hungrily for profitable returns in our nations’ future. I mean, they’re sort of like investment bankers. I’d never write seriously about a profession I hardly knew anything about. Who would do such a thing?

Steve Clark is a sixth-grade teacher, a two-time “Best storyteller in Philadelphia,” a slam poet and a high-school slam poetry coach. He’s on Twitter at @awktweetsfromme.