Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Start of School and Hopefully Something BIGGER

Since by now most everybody has started school I felt compelled to publish this blog posting. Yes I will let you know now it is a bit of a rant, but not the kind you may be used to. This is my rant against teachers, of which I am one, but I am most certainly not guilty of what I suggest here.

How many of you spend a dime of your own money or even more time than your contracted day doing work for school? Yes that is what I thought. In an informal survey I have found that roughly 90% of the those I asked that question answered in the affirmative. Most actually did both!! Ok people, I respect you, I appreciate your energy to the profession, and most importantly I appreciate your commitment to your students. However, this has got to stop and I mean stop NOW.

I recently had a class within my Masters degree curriculum titled Human Performance Technology, "HPT." This was a fascinating class and such an eye-opening experience that I truly felt invigorated to be a student in the class. During one particular class session we had the privilege and luxury to have a skype session with Dr. Saul Carliner, who is currently an associate professor at Concordia University and at one time was the Chapter President for the International Society for Performance Improvement, "ISPI." During this skype session one of my classmates told the story of how he single handedly put together a computer lab at his school. He worked after hours and on weekends setting up the computers, network, printers, and projectors. Of course he thought he was doing a good deed for his school since he was not paid for his time. However, when it came time for maintenance, and we all know many schools purchase equipment without factoring in the cost of ownership, the school expected him to handle all tech related troubles. So he respectfully asked the school if he could be compensated for his time in helping other teachers and providing this maintenance. Of course the school's response was, "Oh, well, we do not have the money for that. Couldn't you just do it anyway."

Dr. Carliner immediately interjected and asked the question, what did you expect them to say? This student seemed dumbfounded since he expected the school to show its' gratitude by compensating him for what he felt was a reasonable request. Dr. Carliner then proceeded to break it all down. He stated that this is a common thing that teachers do not realize they are doing more damage to themselves than they think. The very moment this individual took on the task of working for free, it became expected he would work for free, and worse it severely diminished his value.

While I have always felt that teachers do too much for their schools and students without being appropriately and fairly compensated it was quite refreshing to hear this from an expert in HPT and hear him state clearly why. Another analogy was that when important speakers get paid lots of money to speak, the value of their time is measured in the amount of compensation. Do you really think anybody would listen if they spoke for free? Sure some would, but the fact they are in demand and command a fee, in some cases sizable, means they have enough value to justify their fee.

So that leads me to this, if ALL teachers decided enough was enough (in this economy that should be even more prevalent) and stopped spending their own money and working on their time what would happen. Yes their might be some backlash and yes many including district personnel would say that it is hurting the students, but I say NOT POSSIBLE. If school districts and the general public really felt that way, then they would ensure teacher's have the right budgets, tools, and support to get the things they need to do their job as effectively and efficiently as possible. It is not fair nor appropriate to expect a teacher to use their hard earned money from their grossly underpaid check on your child. It is not fair that schools expect teachers to grade papers at home (especially if they have a family) when they waste hours and hours of our time on inappropriate useless professional development, among many other things. When a lawyer works after hours or on the weekends don't they bill for their time? When a doctor is "on call" aren't they still on the clock? Why is it that so many other professionals get compensated for their time away from their desks, yet teachers are expected to do the same and not be compensated?

Perhaps the foundation of this, will answer the burning question many have, "Are teachers professionals?" In my humble opinion, when you have to take credential classes, continuing education, i.e. professional development, you can be board certified, and many possess Masters or PhDs, I say with a loud and resounding voice YES. But, teachers need to start modeling their professional counterparts in order to be treated like a professional. Stop working for free! Stop spending your hard earned money! If your class lacks supplies or resources tell the parents to call the principal. Call the school board. Demand that you be treated like any other professional! And please, please, please, do not let them pull at your heart strings by saying you are hurting your students (unions can be guilty of this as well). No you absolutely are not!! They are, and they are slowly, systematically, diminishing YOUR value!!!

I recently shared this view with a good friend and wonderful educator Teryl Magee. She worked long hours and devoted much of her time to school. Once she recognized the value of her own time and her desires to do more with her loved ones she realized that her students will be just fine and she stopped working longer hours than what is contracted. She is happier, her students get a happier teacher everyday, and her family gets more of her time. I only hope more of you will consider doing the same.