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You know, they say since the millionaire show was put on television, there's a renewed thirst for knowledge in this country. It's kind of unfortunate though, that Regis Philbin turns out to be the one who leads us to drink from the fountain of wisdom rather than some of the incredibly dedicated teachers in this country.

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but I think we have a problem when the people we hire to be guards at the schools are making more money than the teachers we pay to educate our kids. I think it speaks volumes about how little we value basic education in America that only one of the "three Rs" actually begins with the letter "R."

Hey, you know who I think deserve more respect? The gym teachers of the world. Sure, English teachers have to grade 50 essay papers over a weekend, but putting the volleyballs into that big mesh bag and stacking the traffic cones used in relay races? Not as easy as it looks. The gym teachers make it look easy, but that's just because they're good.

Now I love my kids' teachers, but sometimes, parent/teacher conferences can have a nuclear-weapons-summit level of intensity, because every problem Junior has can be blamed on someone in that room. That's why I always go to my conferences wearing army fatigues that I soaked in gin the night before. That way, the teacher thinks my kids are doing pretty damn good, considering.

Teachers are said to have a high rate of stress and often burn out. If you are a teacher, there are signs that you may be at risk. For example, if rather than trying remember the names of your individual students, you refer to them all as, "Fucko." More than once a week you find yourself saying, "Try me, dipshit." Or you've invented a new game for your class called, "Throw the scissors hard."

Of course, not all teachers are burnouts, but many are predictable. In fact, nearly every high-school teacher falls into one of a handful of basic categories.

There's Tough But Fair, who is universally feared and respected by the freaks and the straights alike. Tough But Fair doesn't give much homework because he can't be bothered grading it, but at the start of each term assigns a reading list that would make Susan Sontag cry. Every few years, a student inevitably asks him why he's never written a book, whereupon the classroom grows uncomfortably silent while Tough But Fair clenches his jaw muscles and stares out the window for a long time, then mutters, "Guess I just never got around to it", and gives a surprise quiz on the complete works of Thomas Pynchon. Nobody ever asks him a personal question again.

The next teacher type is Best Friend. Best Friend insists that you call her by her first name, and addresses the class as "People". She's everyone's favorite teacher, for the obvious reason that her total lack of authority makes her an easy mark, and also because her insistence that everyone move their chairs into a circle at the start of class is good for wasting at least half a period. If Best Friend knew what her students said about her behind her back, she would never stop crying.

My favorite teacher by far, though, was Tenure Jockey. Old, cranky and shuffling, Tenure Jockey is permanently stooped, ground down by serving under decades of monolithic academic bureaucracy. He wears the same tweed jacket with suede patches at the elbows every single day and smells like cherry pipe tobacco and defeat. His Xeroxed handouts are always missing the top or bottom third of the page, and he hasn't altered his lesson plan since Huey Long was shot. And you know what the really frightening part is? When I was in Tenure Jockey's class and he seemed so ancient and decrepit, he was probably younger than I am right now.

But whatever type of teacher we're talking about, they all have one thing in common: they are grossly underpaid. Somehow, we must convince all Americans that paying teachers what they deserve is as good an investment in our future as, say, building more prisons. OK, maybe right now, compensating teachers fairly is out of the question, because society realizes that we've got them by the short hairs. They need to be teachers, and as is often the case in this country, when we know somebody loves to do something, we fuck them over on their paycheck, because we figure they're going to do it anyway. But at least let them keep what little we're giving them. I believe that a teacher's income should not be taxed. I know I wouldn't be where I am if it weren't for dedicated teachers honing my mind to a keen edge, and I say they should pay no taxes. Because if you're a math teacher grossing \$28,000 a year, and you have to pay 0 percent in taxes, that means, your take home pay is...is...uhhh...well, whatever it is, it's good, and so are teachers.

Bottom line: being a teacher today is more challenging than doing bikini waxes on Russian women. Think about it. You enter your place of employment by passing through a metal detector that's beeping like the Road Runner with Tourette's Syndrome, and then spend six hours a day trying to drill even a subatomic-sized kernel of knowledge into the DAWSON'S CREEK- and Sega-Playstation-addled noggins of two dozen eye-rolling, world-weary, body-pierced felons-in-training who regard you with all the respect that they would a stewardess on a spring break charter flight to Cancun. And you know something? When you're not teaching kindergarten, it's even worse.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.


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