When I walked into the Rubber Room for the first time and sat down in my assigned seat, one of the women asked, "Are you normal"?
I answered, "That depends on your definition of normal".
A man laughed derisively. "She doesn't even know what normal is".
Maybe not. But I do have a picture of "normal" in my mind and it looks something like this:
In statistics, this is the classic bell curve, and no matter what is being counted--beans, babies, bobcats--it means that most of them are in the middle, or average. Normal to me, means average.
But we don't always want to be normal or average. In school, it is good to get above average test scores, and bad to get below average test scores. My position on the bell curve depends on which of my characteristics you want to count and which group of people you are comparing me to.
Compared to Average Americans, Rubber Room Teachers are not normal.
We are older than average. A large number of us are in our 40's, 50's and 60's.
We're all college graduates.
Most of us have a least one Masters Degree. Some have two. Others have doctorates.
Many of us make more than $80,000 a year.
Most of us have spent 10, 20, even 30 years working for the same employer--the New York City Board of Education.
Most of our children go to college.
Most of us own our own homes.
Most of us were on fairly solid financial footing before we were sent here--good credit risks. Many still are.
The vast majority have never been arrested or in trouble with the law--if they have been, that's why they are in the RR, and you've read about it in the newspaper.
That's not the norm for all Americans. But it is the norm for the solid American Middle Class. If you compare us with Middle America, we are pretty normal.
However, if you group us with the families of the children we teach, we are not normal. We are way above average.
Perhaps some will find this statement offensive, but that doesn't make it less true.
Allow me to rephrase:
Rubber Room teachers have chosen to spend their lives teaching those who are socially and economically less fortunate than themselves, in hopes that their students will achieve a higher standard of living than their parents did. In doing so, RR teachers have reduced their own capacity to earn a salary commenserate with their education.
Compared to the Average Joe, this is not a very normal way to spend your life.
#2 Rubber Room Teachers are highly educated, dedicated professionals who deserve to use their skills rather than being warehoused and told that they are lucky to be paid for doing nothing.