Saturday, February 21, 2015

Day 21: Isn't Teaching a Full Time Job? #28daysofwriting


Sometimes I read things that make me mad. Not a little cross or partial fuming, but eye narrowing, brow furrowing and blood boiling mad!

What would make me mad you ask (no, it is NOT a trick question those of you who know me well)?

I was couch surfing through my educational feeds, seeing what was new, especially around the world.  It is wise to keep up with what is happening educationally in other countries because you never know when someone elses madness (or conversely innovations) will find their way to our shores of paradise.  I saw a this post 'Why Do Teachers Need Snow Days?' and I was curious.

Admittedly New Zealand doesn't get all that many snow days, but those areas down South that are impacted by them have things in place (called snow folders, with work students do independently) and when I taught down South and we had a snow day, our schools were closed (we were not allowed in - safety reasons) so I worked from home.  So, I really wasn't sure what this article would be about, but I had professional curiosity.

The last thing I expected was a non educator using something as innocuous as a snow day to take pot shots at educators.  It annoyed me, but it wasn't what made me cross.  You see, non teachers who have an axe to grind (maybe they had a growly teacher who yelled at them once when they were 6 and have hated teachers since - who knows) or a political point to score so they can spend their 'hard earned tax revenue' on corporate welfare instead of children,  use teachers as punching bags all the time.  'They are always on holiday', 'they only work 9-3', 'they are just glorified babysitters' and other such old chestnuts have been in play since forever.  I generally pay them little attention these days, and chalk it down to plain old ignorance.

No, it wasn't the original article that made me cross.  You see, I did a bit more reading and I checked out the author via twitter.  Interestingly, my quick browse found nothing to make me dislike the author, in fact, I was impressed he posted a rebuttal to his article, and my estimation of him overall rose somewhat.

It was the rebuttal, "Heres What Gene Marks Gets Wrong About Teachers and Snow Days".  The rebuttal itself was good, and it had relevant points that quietly shed light on some of the ignorance about the subject that was used in the first article.  One thing really stood out for me however.  And by stand out, I mean it really jumped out off the page and it struck me right where my social equity and fairness gene lives.

In the rebuttal, Steve Clark the author writes the following:

"Teachers don’t get paid for 365 days. They get paid for the 10 months they are in front of students."

Why not?  Teaching is a full time job, and even in the 'holidays' teachers are working hard preparing for the following year.  My friends and family who have 'real jobs' have 'real' holidays when they go on holiday.  In New Zealand people are entitled (yes, by law and paid) to annual holidays (4 weeks), sick leave, bereavement leave and statutory holidays ( like Easter and Christmas).  In each case, the people who are not teachers take these days off and they are real days off.  They don't have to worry about their classes, the paperwork, the planning, and they get to have a real holiday.  They simply enjoy.  So I ask again, why is it in the US that teachers are not getting paid for each day of the year?

Teachers don’t get the summer off. Not really. Some take full-time seasonal jobs. Others go to school. If they do take time off, they don’t get paid for it.

OMG - see above. I am gobsmacked that teachers need to take seasonal work and I am gobsmacked that teachers don't get paid for time off, like above.  What do they do if their child is sick or there is a bereavement?  I hope that this time is at least paid for.  What kind of system would not cover such contingencies?

Then I read the two 'case studies' and I felt my crossness getting crossness on top of the first level of crossness.

Gina Trice rises at 5 a.m. every day. She works a second job, and “off” nights she uses for grading and planning.

Seriously, she works a second job!! Why does she need to?  Is she not paid enough to live on?  How does she fit the time in to work another job?

"Dan Kiers, Gina’s grade partner, works 25 hours a week at Bed Bath and Beyond, arriving back home 3 days a week at 11:30 p.m., and arrives at school every day at 6:45 a.m. He has an infant son."

25 hours at Bed Bath and Beyond!!  See my wonderings above about why and how.

I just don't understand, so perhaps some of my colleagues from the US can enlighten me.

You see, if I compare what I do, and what my teachers have to do every single day, and if it was even only 2/3rds of that, then there is NO WAY that a teacher would have the time, energy or physical endurance to be able to fit in another 25 hours a week working retail.  The average teacher works a long and full week, including nights, extra curricular events, weekends and holidays.  This older article from 2010 (but it hasn't got better!) states that NZ teachers work longer hours for less pay than most countries, but it states that teachers in the US and Mexico work longer hours.   Given this, I repeat my wonderings.

1. Where do US teachers find the time to work these other jobs

and most importantly

2. Why do they need to?

I can only surmise that they work these extra jobs because teachers are not paid enough to live on, and they do not make enough money to feed their families.  If I am right, then that is disgraceful and all those who are responsible for this need to take a cold hard look at themselves in the mirror.

Teachers work is important work.  They are shaping the face of society and they are at the chalk face of our future.  Given how critical it is that they get it right, why would you not invest in this?  It is not rocket science.  The message it sends is that teachers are not valued and teachers are not worthy.  So I ask this;

If what you pay them (and the conditions in which they work where they need to get secondary jobs to feed their own families) is such that the message they get, can only be that they are worth less than others and not critical to your countries future, why do you trust them with your children?  This is a serious question.  Everyday you send that which is most precious to you, to them, and yet you don't feel they are worthy?


With my parent hat on, I wouldn't send Squirt to a place that I had disrespect and a scathing disdain for.  That would be like sending her to a charter school thinking that unqualified teachers that are paid less would be better.  What rubbish.  That would seem counterintuitive to what I need her to experience.  Nothing is more life changing than that of an amazing educator.  I know, because I have had that experience as a student myself.

Furthermore, I would also worry if my staff had to work 25 hours at a second job.  I would worry because teaching is a 24/7, all encompassing career that takes every ounce of commitment and passion to make it hum.   I would worry about their self esteem, their energy levels, their families ever seeing them, and how that ultimately would impact on their class.  Nothing should take a teacher away from what it is they are meant to do - and that is teach.  Why politicians, business 'gurus' and policy brats can't see this is beyond me.  I am sure they are not that stupid.

I hope I am wrong.  I hope that there is a logical reason why teachers have to work second jobs and I hope I am enlightened.  Alas, I suspect it is for all the reasons I fear, and that my dear reader, is why I am cross!  

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