Betsy-the-cat has learned (mostly) not to bite me anymore. When I first got her in June, she was already eight-years-old and perhaps had a history of abuse. I’m not sure. I couldn’t figure out what set her off, because I’d be happily snuggling her, and all of the sudden, she’d bite me—lighting fast. There was no time for me to even react before her teeth were inches into my flesh.
Now, when she’s about to bite me, I can see it in her demeanor, and as soon as I see it, I strike first, before she has a chance. I don’t actually strike/hit her, of course, but I yell,“HEY! Knock it off!” and she hisses and jumps away from me, only to come back 90 seconds later to snuggle again.
From the first moment Betsy crawled into my lap, I loved her so much that I was willing to put up with some pretty nasty bites and scratches. I had faith that she would eventually get used to me and stop biting—which is, indeed, what happened.
What would have happened to her with a person who has less faith? I know for a fact that my own mother would have gotten rid of Betsy, and she won’t even touch Betsy when she’s at my house.
I don’t blame my mom. Betsy’s bites hurt far more than one would think is possible—and it hurts for days.
A few months ago, I wrote that Betsy was like data (you can find the link at the bottom), but her biting is also like the teaching-shortage.
Right now, teaching is like Betsy. Teaching bites and hurts and draws blood. It’s why we lose so many teachers, why there’s a teaching-shortage of crisis proportions.
Teachers are getting repeatedly bitten. In this metaphor, the decision-makers are doing the biting; they’re defunding education, proposing bills that seem quite punitive to teachers, and making sure that they can get as much money into private hands as possible.
Every one of those actions is, metaphorically, teachers getting bit. Every one of those actions is Betsy, taking a bite out of an arm (or hand or whatever she can get).
Some of us are willing to wait it out. Maybe we’re high enough on the pay-scale that the bites are simply not as deep, or maybe we love teaching so much that we’re willing to withstand the bites, willing to tolerate some blood and scratches.
But even those of us with a great deal of passion and faith will eventually get tired of getting bit. One’s faith that things will change is finite, I think. When the day comes that most/all teachers are tired of being bit, I hope decision-makers and legislature have a plan in place.
Or maybe they could just stop biting. If Betsy can learn….
Betsy and data: http://www.storiesfromschoolaz.org/betsy-biting-cat-data/