Are Teachers Paid Too Little?

As a teacher, I have to say a few things:

Three months off: Yes – er, well, maybe. It all depends on how your district and state handle weather-related closings, if you’re in an area that has those to contend with. (And don’t open up that old can of worms about “thirty years ago we walked uphill both ways to school in snow over our heads and never closed school once. We’re living in a scary, litigious society. One bus slides off the road and half a dozen youngsters receive minor injuries, or two kids sustain frostbite while standing outside in -20 windchills waiting for the bus that’s late, and you have lawsuits, my friend. Welcome to our society today. Fix the lawsuits, and there might be less disruptions to your school schedule.) Back on topic: If your school tacks on snow days to the end, and you have 12-15 of those, you just lost a good chunk of a month of your summer vacations. Heaven help you if you were planning a cruise, or maybe your own wedding, anywhere near the projected last day of school.

On the subject of vacations, the summers off are nice. Not gonna lie about that. But the vacation days you receive from the school district each year to use as you please usually number somewhere in the neighborhood of TWO. That’s right. Your extended family goes on a weeklong Disney vacation and you want to go…well, you’ll have to deny yourself going anywhere during the school year for three years ahead of time to get that privilege, without chopping into your retirement by taking “leave without pay” for that excursion. And if you think you might ever want to interview for a job somewhere else, you’d better keep a couple of those personal days up your sleeve, because those interviews are almost guaranteed to happen during your workday, during the school year. You also will need to save up if you want to get a marriage license, or buy a house, and you’ll need to have some in the “bank” if you’re planning a vacation near the end of the year and it starts to snow a lot. (See above.)

You didn’t mention it, but someone always brings up “Teachers only work seven hours a day.” Truth: teachers are required to work the number of hours specified in their contract. (This typically includes wolfing down lunch in 30 minutes or less, and some teachers are forbidden to leave the building to eat.) But they have to get the required work done, regardless of how long that takes. Many teachers are at school until dinnertime and beyond, just getting the necessary tasks completed.

Teachers are required to continue their education, in many cases on their own time/dime. Many spend a good chunk of their summers taking coursework, because it’s less painful to do it that way than to sign away 3-4 consecutive weekends, or 12-15 Tuesday afternoons/evenings PLUS homework on top of their regular work. In the state where I teach, you have to have 24 credit hours in the first six years you’re certified. Note that I said “certified” and not “employed.” If you’re one of the unfortunates who doesn’t score a full-time job the first year you’re certified, the state doesn’t care, and time is still ticking. Let your certification lapse and you won’t have employment anymore.

“Lots” of sick days: In all the schools where I’ve taught, we got ten per year. That comes out to about one a month. That’s to cover any and all sickness you might get, as well as any medical appointments you need through the year. And since you’re working in close proximity with so many little germ factories, you’re going to be sick. Those first few years, illness will be a constant in your life. Even when you feel physically well, the germs your charges have shared with you may force you to stay home, perhaps for multiple days. No voice=no teaching. Pinkeye=no teaching. Head lice=no teaching.

And here’s a liability most folks don’t have hanging over their heads at work – all it takes is ONE accusation from a student that the teacher touched/spoke to/looked at him/her inappropriately, and that teacher’s career is in the toilet whether the accusation was true or not.

Which brings me to the pic you chose for an “example” of a Wisconsin teacher. Bed-head hair, shirt tied up, tramp stamp showing – what was the point of that? Please clarify.

I digress.Most of my negativity here has nothing to do with the picture, but with the notion that teachers are underworked and overpaid. It’s not as simple as the numbers. Those who don’t teach don’t usually get it.

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