On Campus
Jun 29, 2023, 05:55AM

School’s Out 

Teachers who paint.

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We see them every year around June 15th. Pulling up to houses with ladders strapped to their Subaru Outbacks. The ladders are either paint-splattered or new depending on how many summers these brush-wielding academics have plied the painting trade. Painting educators are often unlicensed, uninsured, and lack a bond, but it doesn’t matter because they’re usually working on the houses of family, friends, and friends of friends who’re happy to be spared the bother of finding and scheduling a professional painting contractor.

They usually have a teenage kid or two with them, either their own or someone else’s, a someone else who is doubtless thrilled to have their progeny under the tutelage of a presumably trusted member of society for the summer—and earning some bucks. I run the emotional gamut, irritation with, active aversion to, and grudging respect for these fair-weather opportunists.

Respect when I consider the working lives of teachers looking to augment their incomes over the three-month summer vacations. I wonder if they prefer painting houses to instructing underperforming children consigned to summer school. A fair share of the teacher painters I’ve met are decent and often solicitous of advice. I’ve been approached by history or science teachers earnestly asking about various caulks and grits of sandpaper.

The irritation swells when these learned moonlighters display ignorance and/or an air of superiority. One teacher/painter told a homeowner that her house didn’t need a pressure wash, that the dirt actually made the paint adhere better. He didn’t get the job, my company did, and the grime flowed off like a dirty river. Another teacher/painter and his crew were fired and my company was called in to finish the job. In addition to some substandard work and roof overspray, the students had left fast-food wrappers under the customer’s deck.

Exterior painting season in rainy Oregon generally runs from about May 15thto September 30th, so there’s a lot of compressed activity. From time to time we find ourselves working right next door to an instructor and his amateur outfit. Once an older teacher and his study were working on the house next door. He seemed fine at first, but I should’ve trusted with my first instinct. After he realized I was amenable to conversation he started bragging about how much money he makes over the summers. This is when you start thinking about a call to the Construction Contractor’s Board’s enforcement hotline. The fines for unlicensed activity start at $1000.

I got into back-fence chat with another haughty teacher-painter once, looked up, realized, and then pointed out with measured patience that his apprentice was applying acrylic paint to one of the customer’s new vinyl windows.That’s the kind of thing that usually shuts these under-the-table brush-slingers up.

There’s a standing joke I’ve made on jobsites over the years: “We’re not trying to teach kids, so why are these guys trying to paint houses?” They always disappear after Labor Day. I’m never unhappy.



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