Friday, February 6, 2015

What's In Your Desk Drawer? Day 5

(This post is part of a series about the weird stuff teachers have in their desk drawers. You can read more about this project here, and I hope you'll share the stories of the weird stuff you have in your desk too!)

"You've got $1000 in your desk drawer? On a teacher's salary?"

Yes, that's a $1000 bill.

No, it's not a real $1000 bill. (C'mon, you think I'd keep a $1000 bill in my desk drawer?)

It's actually...a notepad. See?

I have to be honest, this one is a bit of a mystery for me. It's been in my desk drawer for a long, long time, but I can't remember where I picked up this notepad. I know I had it 15 years ago when I taught in California, and it moved with me across the country when I accepted a teaching position in Iowa. It came along into a desk drawer in a different classroom when I took on the Tech Coordinator role in that school, and it also made the move into a desk drawer in my current office, where I plan lessons for college students, and have meetings with future teachers, and write things, like this blog.

I don't actually use the notepad as a notepad. I'm not sure why I haven't. Maybe it's the nostalgia. Maybe it's because I feel like it's wasting money. (That's just silly, isn't it?)

But I'll tell you something, I wish it were a stack of real $1000 bills (though the Treasury Department doesn't print them anymore.) And I wish I could hand-deliver a $1000 bill to all the great teachers I know.

There are amazing people who are doing outstanding work all over this country, and all over the world. They are often sacrificing--out of their time, and even out their own finances FOR THE CHILDREN. Could these folks have chosen a different profession? Yep. But they have answered the call to serve. And service often means sacrifice. And for teachers, part of that sacrifice might be in terms of dollar signs.

Let's face it folks: you don't go into education to get rich. (Trust me, I know this firsthand.) I'm not complaining. I knew the pay scale when I came into this profession. People who come into the teaching profession viewing it as just a paycheck don't usually last long. They opt out, because they see that the money is not worth the personal investment it takes to become a great teacher.

So, what if we actually paid great teachers WHAT THEY ARE WORTH? Some people try to argue that teachers are just glorified babysitters. Sadly, that may be the case in some places, and perhaps some teachers even view their work that way. I fundamentally disagree with this perspective--it absolutely rubs me the wrong way, but let's just go down this road for a minute...

Okay. Babysitters. When my wife and I go out for the evening, we hire a babysitter. And we pay about $2.50 an hour per kid. (We're pretty cheap, aren't we?) So let's just play with a $2.50 an hour per kid number for a minute.

How many kids are in a class? Let's just be generous and say there are only 20 kids in the class. (This is pretty unlikely in this day and age of growing class sizes, isn't it? But for the sake of argument...) 20 kids x $2.50 an hour, would be $50 an hour, right?

Just to keep it simple, let's say the school day runs from 8:00 to 3:30, which would be 7.5 hours, but teachers should get a lunch break I suppose, so let's give them half an hour off for lunch. (7 hour work days? Pshh. Easy, right?) Okay, 7 hours a day at $50 per hour...that makes $350 per day.

$350 a day x 5 days a week = $1750 per week.

Well, we certainly can't pay teachers for the weeks they aren't working, because that doesn't seem fair. They only actually teach 36 weeks out of the year, right? So $1750 per week x 36 weeks = $63,000 per year.


Does that sound about right to you?

Let me tell you: my last year teaching in a K-12 school--with 14 years of experience and a Master's degree--my salary was considerably less than $63,000 per year.

And I'm not including all of the prep work, and paper work, and summer hours teachers spend getting ready for the school year.

How many teachers are at school far earlier than that first bell rings, and how many stay long after the final bell rings to send the kids home? (Time not accounted for in our "hourly wage" listed above?)

How many hours do they spend in the evening, marking papers and providing feedback on students' work? (Again, "unpaid" time?)

How many hours do they spend working with individual students before school, after school, or even during their lunch break? Kids who would otherwise fall behind or fall through the cracks without individual support and attention? (You know, because working with individuals isn't really that important, is it?)

How many hours do they spend emailing, texting, calling, and meeting face-to-face to keep in touch with parents? (Or maybe we could just let this part go, since it's just babysitting? Parent's don't need to be kept in the loop with what happens at school, right? I mean, you wouldn't expect your babysitter to give you a run down of how the kids behaved, what they ate, how they played, whether they napped, or anything else, would you?)

How many weeks do they spend during the summer finding new resources, taking professional development courses, and getting things ready in their classrooms before that first day of school? (Because babysitters aren't paid for babysitting classes...they're only paid for the hours they actually are watching the kids, right?)

By now you might be saying, "Okay, but teaching isn't an hourly job; teachers are paid a salary."

You're right.

They are paid a salary.



C'mon people, teachers are not 13-year-olds, watching the neighbor's kids for an evening.

We are talking about PROFESSIONALS, with SPECIALIZED TRAINING who work with REAL KIDS, making a difference in the lives of the NEXT GENERATION.

Maybe we could consider paying them what they are worth for this work?

I wish I had a stack of $1000 bills that I could give out to the great teachers I know. It isn't nearly enough of a "thank you," but maybe it would be a small encouragement for their service, a grateful acknowledgement for their sacrifices.

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