I’ve been a classroom teacher for sixteen years. I didn’t even know if I would like this gig when I started out. I came from a background in newspaper and TV. But I wanted something with more stability and weirdly enough a better paycheck – that was back when beginning teachers made $26,000 a year in Texas. They make a bit more now.
But lately teachers have become the enemy. Our “fat paychecks” and “grand retirement” packages are just too much for taxpayers to handle. God forbid teachers make a living wage and be able to raise a family. It is not enough that we already sacrifice time, money and effort above what we are contracted to do. We are one of the lowest paid professions that requires both a 4-year college degree and continuing education after being hired. So many teachers pay for supplies out of their own pockets that the US Federal government recognizes this fact with a $200 tax deduction.
Most teachers get to school an hour before the first bell and stay 2-3 hours after the last bell, making for 9-10 hour working days at school. This doesn’t take into account additional time at night and on weekends grading papers and planning lessons or calling parents.
Of course we don’t “work summers” and lay around the pool all day for three months. Not likely. School ends here after the first week of June, and teachers return to school the second week of August. This gives you eight weeks off. But teachers often are called in for curriculum meetings, staff development, teaming meetings and a hundred other things. Many teachers also go in several days before they are “on the clock” to start getting their rooms ready for the first day of school, since many schools no longer give teachers time to do this anymore. Nearly all of these “extra duties” are non-contracted and unpaid.
Next year in many classrooms, there will be 30-35-40 students packed into a room designed for 25. The desks will be wall to wall and right on top of each other. The computers will not be upgraded any time soon, and should one stop working, you will have to do without. This is how we prepare our students for the 21st century?
If you have too many English language learners, or special needs kids – forget about asking for a co-teacher or even an aide. They too will be gone.
Some districts are considering replacing their librarians with secretaries or getting rid of the library totally. Same with nurses: replacing RN’s with cheaper LVN’s or having several campuses share a nurse.
High schools in the Houston area will lose their Deputies soon. Too expensive says the county. Schools will have to hire their own officers or lower cost “security guards.”
Don’t even start on textbooks, some haven’t been replaced by the state in a decade. I’ve heard that some districts have started double checking the mileage line to make sure that every student who is outside the legal limit walks to school or is brought by a parent, not a bus. I wonder how much longer until they tell us we can’t have air conditioning until it is above a certain temperature. The double paned windows in my classroom don’t even open. There are other classrooms that have no windows.
If you are lucky after 30-40 years of this, you can get a pension, and live off of 60 percent of your former salary.
Many complain that teachers don’t do a good job compared to the “golden age” of the ’50s-60s. Back when ruler toting teachers apparently were 10 feet tall and shot fire from their eyes. Those teachers didn’t have the level of expectations we do today. If a student didn’t cut it, they failed them and sent them off to work in a factory or in the fields. Today, we are expected to make sure every student gets a 21st century education. But we still use some methods that haven’t changed in 100 years. Why – because we are told to do so.
The same politicians who are using teachers as a tackling dummy, are the ones who like to mandate everything from the number of school days to the allowable calories in the cafeterias. There is more paperwork and regulation in schools than in nearly any other business. Yet, along with the regulations, there never comes an increase in funding for compliance. We must do more with less.
Less is not always more – many times less is simply less. And as educators, we need to stop pretending we can keep doing more with less. We can’t! We are part of the problem. We keep taking it. We need to stop agreeing that we can do more. We can’t.
If you live in Texas, or even other states – this is probably true there too. Join the Protect the Classroom movement, call – write – or email your state legislator and senator. This is going to hit EVERY school – yes the ones in your neighborhood too!