Recently, while procrastinating on the internets (my favorite pastime), I ran across this piece of satirical math and it got me thinking about teachers’ salaries. The author suggests that by paying them as babysitters, teachers would in fact earn more money than they do now. This fascinated me because of how often we teachers are treated as little more than babysitters by lawmakers, families, and administration.
Teachers are big news right now, particularly due to the protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana. CNN recently ran a piece about why teachers are so upset; they are underappreciated and have been for many years, and now states want to evaluate and even fire teachers based on invalid test scores.
Teachers are professionals (like doctors and lawyers) and in order to teach, one needs education and training. Teachers are required to attend continuing education classes and are strongly encouraged to seek out master’s degrees. Yet, with all this specialized training and education, the average teacher’s salary in the United States is about $42,000 (according to payscale.com– although a quick Google search brings up different numbers). The average family practice doctor makes $204,000 (according to studentdoc.com). While the nature of these two jobs is different, the amount of training and life long education is often comparable.
So why are teachers not treated as the professionals they are, or paid accordingly? The short answer is that teaching is considered a women’s job and as such, does not demand the same respect that other professions do. As I mentioned earlier, many people think teachers are just glorified caretakers. If you are interested in this theory, I highly recommend 14kgold’s impassioned plea for support of teachers’ unions because teaching is essentially a feminist issue.
This said, what really gets to me is when people say that teachers are overpaid. “What? Why? I can’t even! How are they overpaid?” you ask. Because:
1) They only work 6 hours a day! This is not true. I regularly get to work at 7 a.m. (school starts at 8:30) and stay at least until 4:30 p.m. (school gets out at 2:30), at which time I bring work home because, contrary to what people believe, the limited plan time that I get during the school week is not enough to actually plan my lessons and take care of the classroom. Furthermore, I regularly work through my 45 minutes of lunch.
Additionally, teachers are required to take continuing education courses outside of working hours; I take graduate courses two nights a week. And, about those continuing education courses … while at one time they were often paid for by the school district, because of the economy most teachers are now required to pay for them themselves.
2) Teachers get summers off! This is partly true. Most teachers I know either teach summer school in order to make ends meet, or they take classes. In my experience, the teachers who truly have free summers are the teachers who have a significant other who supplements the income.
3) Why should we pay teachers more when their students are failing? Ugh, really? Failing? Based on what? Based on the invalid test scores that were never meant to be used to evaluate teachers? Obviously, this argument makes me the most angry. People seem to think that the only teachers that “deserve” to earn a reasonable amount of money are those whose students can pass a standardized test. Research shows that white, middle class students do best on standardized tests, so any teacher who wants to earn a decent living would want to teach in a school that serves that population, leaving the poorest, most needy schools without good teachers.
There is a whole lot more that can be written on the issue, but I need to get back to my lesson planning, IEPs, graduate coursework, and students’ assessments now. So I leave you, fellow Persephoneers, with a plea to help educate others about educational issues and to support your local teachers’ union!