Friday, March 4, 2011

Thoughts on teachers

I've tried to remain silent, but I really can't anymore. I am absolutely appalled at the vitriol I've been hearing directed toward K-12 teachers, primarily by Republicans, but by some Democrats, too.

It's obvious that 99.9% of the people yammering about how awful teachers are and how little work they do and how they don't deserve what "we" pay them know absolutely squat about teachers. So here's a little glimpse of what my family goes through:

1. My fiancee teaches from the first week of August through the last week in May. He does not get paid for June or July at all. This whole "they only work 9 months" crap is just that. He DOES NOT GET PAID for the remaining months of the summer.

2. He does not work "from 8-3" and get summers off. On a light day, he is at work by 6:30 a.m. and might get home before 7 p.m. On a heavier work day, when grades are due or extra work has been piled on, he is there from 6 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m. This never changes.

3. He gets about 3 sick days for the year, and even on the rare days he has to stay home, he has to prepare everything for his sub, so he doesn't really get to rest.

4. His salary is nowhere near "$50,000 with up to $45,000 in benefits!" Since he started teaching, his salary has been cut 30%, with odds good that it'll be cut again this summer. He currently makes less than $30,000 a year. As for benefits, he has basic health insurance and dental, and has to give a hearty chunk of his gross salary to the state retirement plan as well. He's not raking in the dough, nor is the state paying outrageous benefits, but the same basic plans that most every other employer is required to offer.

5. Unless you've lived on Mars for the last few decades, you should know that most teachers pay for most of their supplies out of their own pockets. My fiancee has to buy paper, pencils, books, notebooks, and all sorts of other supplies that come out of his own bank account because the school district is broke and can't afford to get books for his students to use. He often can't assign books he'd love for his students to read because the school won't buy books (for the English teacher, mind).

6. With all the vitriol about the power of teacher unions, you need to know that some states don't allow them at all. The state where we live is a "right to work" state, which means you can't unionize at all. That means that here, where education has been the one item slashed every year for the last five years, teachers have no collective bargaining power, and no one stands up for their rights.

7. The teachers in my fiancee's school district can't get out of their contracts, either. They can't just "quit if they don't like it." The school makes them sign a contract that threatens to have their teaching license revoked by the state if they do not carry out all duties for the full term of their contract.

8. The contract also has an "other duties as assigned" clause, which the administrators have taken to mean that they can force the teachers to do all sorts of things (for no extra pay) at any time. My fiancee has been forced to clean the school grounds on the weekends (like last weekend), work as a waiter for school fundraisers (on weeknights, preventing him from grading and doing actual work), and much more. How many businessmen have to do extra crap that's not in their job description?

9. Teachers without tenure have virtually no job security. My fiancee's job is dependent on ridiculous evaluations - usually consisting of a person randomly entering his classroom for 5 minutes and then bashing him for not doing all sorts of other things in that 5 minutes - and on student test scores. Regardless of the fact that test scores depend mainly ON THE STUDENT - their personality, memory, learning skills or disabilities, parental involvement, sleep habits, health or illness, poverty (if they're hungry, do they really care about grammar?), etc. No matter, the only thing that matters is if they improve test scores. If they don't, obviously it's the teachers' faults, and they're going to be fired.

10. My fiancee also has to pay for all of his continuing education credits. The state (or school) has done nothing to help him. Despite the fact that each class he has to take (like one this spring that will take up 3 separate weekends, 10 hrs a day) costs upwards of $400-600, that also comes out of pocket.

So please, before you mindlessly join those lambasting teachers and teachers' unions, please do the research. Know what teachers actually go through. You who have 9-5 jobs, how many of you have to take your work home with you? Teachers' jobs are literally never done. There is always more paperwork - individual plans for each student that has a disability or is behind; evaluations on everything from their behavior to the smallest academic achievement; set lesson plans for weeks at a time (how many of you have to submit a work plan for the next month, every month of your career?); plus the actual lessons, and the grading (my fiancee is required to have his students do one graded assignment per day - that's 80 students a day, 5 days a week, so around 400 papers to grade every week, not counting quizzes, tests, or other larger assignments).

We work hard. We work until we literally can't function at the end of the day. I got the day off today, and yet have been doing work from home for the last 3 hours. Please think about how much is on our shoulders before you cut our salaries to the point that we can't pay our bills.

Thank you.

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