Sunday, August 28, 2016
Toughest Challenge For Teachers? Public Opinion
I try to stay away from any blog prompt that could lead me to start thinking negatively, but this prompt was on the Blaugust list and it is important. My biggest concern is with the public opinion of teachers. Whenever I read an article online about education, I can pretty much guarantee that I'd spend a few depressed hours reading through the public comment section. Even if the article was a positive one, eventually people start to comment how this one good teacher/school is the exception rather than the rule. Teachers get 10 weeks paid vacation, teachers have great health benefits, teachers get too much of a retirement benefit, teachers get paid too much, teachers have the easier job ever, teachers are just generally greedy people with their shiny apples and Toyotas.
I know that it is pointless, you can't argue with people who already have their minds made up, but here are a few of my responses.
1) Teachers do NOT get 10 weeks of paid vacation. Teachers are salaried, most choose to be paid (a smaller amount) over 26 pay periods rather than 21 to help with their budgeting. I like to think of it as an interest free loan to our employers and to the taxpayers. If you lend someone $800 and they repay you 6 months later, you didn't get paid $800 of additional income, you simply collected on a debt. How nice of you not to charge your friend interest.
Additionally, I work the same number of hours per week during the summer as I do during the school year. Most teachers do not do this, I understand that. However, I do not have children, so I spend my summers taking graduate classes to maintain my certification and creating classroom activities for my classes the following fall. All evening, weekend, and summer work is unpaid.
2) Many teachers DO have good health benefits. I can't speak for everyone, but I am grateful for the benefits that I have. Rather complain about that, why not insist that everyone have a right to affordable health care? That said, the only two insurance plans, other than my own, that I have been on have both been slightly better than mine. My father worked in a factory and my husband works for an armory. I'd say I pay premiums about 60% of their costs and my coverage is about half the value of their, so it's a wash.
3) Teachers get a FAIR retirement benefit. Again, I would argue, why not care for all employees and require employers to help fund retirements, especially for vested employees (10+ years). Why take away a great benefit from someone when you could fight to have that benefit for everyone. That said, teachers are paid far less than other professionals with the same level of credentials. In exchange for being paid less, some teachers get a pension. In Pennsylvania the teachers and the schools were supposed to fund the plan. Teachers have always paid their part, but for years, school chose not to pay into the accounts. Now when they need to repay the money they held off on paying (again, sort of like repaying a loan), this has created hardship. I think of my pension sort of like social security. 10% of my weekly pay goes to the pension, but in reality, I may never see that money again. I have to save in an IRA just like everyone else. You can't depend on social security being there and you can not count on a pension either.
4) Teachers are paid less than other professionals with the same levels of education. See the article linked in the previous section. It's worth noting that teachers are paid for working with children 8 hours per day. Most teachers have about 40 minutes of that time set aside for things like grading papers and creating content. That is not nearly enough time. I spend an additional 2-3 unpaid hours per day doing those things. Also, some people would argue that children are our most valuable resource. Why not respect and pay the professionals that allow all other professions to exist?
5) Teachers have a difficult job. It is thankless in most cases. I have 120-150 students per year. I hear positive feedback from maybe 3-4 sets of parents per year. I get negative feedback far more often. It makes sense I guess, people generally only reply to surveys or offer feedback when they are unhappy. I wish that anyone who wants to comment on the difficulty of the job would be required to teach for 1 year first. I'd like to see their student performance and evaluations compared to how they describe the difficulty of their teaching job.
6) Most teachers are incredibly selfless. I personally offer before/after school help for about 1 hour per day, at no cost to students. I spend about $500 of my personal income to buy supplies for my students. I even forgo bathroom breaks and lunch breaks when students need help and can not come in before/after school. Call me crazy, but everyone should be entitled to 25 minutes of free time to do things like eat and use the lavatory.