Why was this marked +4 Interesting? The poster basically posted a random all-encompassing opinion with out any sources.
In North America? Have you traveled to parts outside of the Continental US to make that claim? I don't think Mexico & Canada would like to be put into the same bucket.
Least Respected? You said NA so I am guessing compared to the world. There are many countries out there where the senior students run the school and/or the teachers only show up to work on pay day.
Poorest Paid Professional? Google: http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state/
Average HOUSEHOLD income? Google: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States
Nuff Said (if you compare to most other countries, foreign teachers make less or about the same relative to other jobs there).
Longest hours? Google: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/survey-teachers-work-53-hours-per-week-on-average/2012/03/16/gIQAqGxYGS_blog.html
53?!? And 6-8 weeks of PTO? WOW. Talk to any IT Developer, 50-100 hours per week. Average, easily 60. I was in Accounting & Auditing and averaged 55 hours (60+ for month, quarter, & annual closes). In IT, averaged 55; 100+ for deadlines. As an IT PM, 50-70 hours. 15-20 days PTO + 10 holidays.
And no, that does not count the hours spent on further education, certifications, and air travel for clients. And in the consulting world, not seeing home Monday to Thursday. Yes, our salaries are higher, 50k starting and growing to 80k+ over 5+ years, but considering the hours, I think comparable to teachers.
BUT COME ON, "consistently one of the least respected, poorest paid professionals... longest hours of anyone"? BULL! Go see a few episodes of Dirty Jobs.
Seniority has nothing to do with teachers becoming "heroes". My teacher heroes can be counted on both hands and they were some of the least paid in the schools (except 2). I respect them to the Nth degree. But the worst teachers, although just 4, made some of the highest salaries (90k+). Every time this topic comes up, I remember those 4 and think how much of a handicap each generation that they touch start off with. All the other teachers were mediocre but I still thank them for their contribution to what I am today.