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.


Selena said...

All of it is true! While I have left the teacher duties in the school building, I am guilty of doing extra duties for the school after hours. I do get compensated for some duties, but I always go over the 40 hour requirement. I promise to stop working for free by not checking my school email account after hours since that is where most requests come from.

gcwebster said...

What an excellent and gutsy post! The examples surely hit home. It makes me feel better about the decisions I have made over time to minimize spending my personal time and money on my job. (I admit, however, that your cold turkey attitude is probably best.)

As a new teacher 18 years ago, I was often at school until 7 pm and spent hundreds of dollars on my classroom rather than ask for things I needed. Now, I coach new teachers and I help them see that there are avenues to get the instructional materials they needs plus enhancement equipment they "want." That would have been very empowering for me as a new teacher. I also adopted a "you can't eat an elephant in one bite" attitude this year. I've decided that I will stop at the end of the day and resume my work when I'm on the clock. It will surely be there when I return.

Our district accounts for some evening time for teachers to grade papers by shortening the hours they are expected to stay on campus beyond the student day, but it still requires significant planning and time management for teachers to keep grading and planning from tailspinning into a time consuming nightmare.

Personally, I think most educators can benefit from time management training. Working smarter is key to accomplishing what we need to accomplish in terms of planning and assessment. For me, integrating technology and collaboration are both powerful strategies to accomplish "more" using "less" time.

Thank you for having the guts to express these opinions.

Dan Gross said...

I agree, but only partially. Having been in fields other than just education, I know that those that are successful in other fields often show the same behavior. Not to say the guy who makes boxes at the box factory is out putting in just a little extra, but for the car salesman that networking and writing down of license plates of people who "look" like they need new cars will make all of the difference. The kid at the supermarket probably isn't bagging groceries, but that high performing 4 star chef is going out to meet other chefs, trying new recipes and spices and taking classes.

Is there a happy medium? My first year in almost any new job is spent about 90% waking hours at work. Years later, it does become easier and the money and time commitment becomes less. Part of this is the trade off we make to work with bright eyes and absorbent minds, and not empty boxes and sacks. The 10 year teacher only has 1 job to do: the students, and not 2 jobs to do: the students AND the curriculum.

I'd also say that your 90% figure might be a little high. Not to knock others, but I would say that perhaps 75% make relatively minor contributions, with 10-15% hitting the significant ones. [Not to mention discounts and things available that teachers take advantage of that AREN'T used for the classroom.]

stacykasse said...

Yes, it is true, and I am guilty of doing some of that. As I have been in this profession longer, I do realize that it is one of the reasons why teachers burn out. They forget 1) that they ARE professionals and 2)there is a life outside of teaching.

I think NOT thinking of ourselves as professionals is the most disturbing. Do you have business cards? You should. Do you give out your home phone for people to call? Does your doctor let you call him/her at home? Think about it.

We want to be thought of as professionals and yet we do everything in our power to go against what a professional does.

OR...looking at it from the other hand. ARE we the professionals and doctors and lawyers SHOULD be more like us?

In the end, we do know why we do this...we do it for the kids. As long as we keep that in mind...not for payment, not for "thank yous" not for a pat on the back, but for the kids, then you are truly an educational professional.

Just something to think about.

Mrs. C. said...

Wow! First of all I applaud you. You took the words out of my mouth. But, I don't know that I would have the guts to post it on the web. I have been preaching this all the time at school. However, there are times that I find it hard to practice what I preach. As an elementary classroom teacher, I want to spend every minute of my time with my students. As a result, I end up grading papers at home on occasion. During the summer, I am guilty of spending time getting my classroom in order. Normally about 1-2 extra days. I do this because during our pre-school year work days, we are inundated with too many meetings and I do not have time to finish my room. Other than that, I do not spend time outside of school working on my classroom. I do spend time on professional development of my own. As a result, I have time to spend with my kids. I leave school by 3:30 every day. I read, play, cook, and whatever else comes up with my kids. And, when I am asked to do something outside of contracted time, I ask for compensation. If there is no compensation, then I do not do it. I received some backlash for this originally, but now do not. As a matter of fact, my stance along with others, helped bring about some change in the way things are done in our district. When we teach classes, we get paid for class plus plan time.

Dr. G said...

Excellent post, I agree with you completely. I was a classroom teacher for twenty years before I came back to academia and spent, thousands. Unfortunately, I disagree with an earlier poster that time spent gets less with time. I consistently worked long over my 'technical' contracted hours and if I needed something for the class, bought it out of my own pocket.

This gives the illusion that all is fine with our education system and the public, ie parents and school board members, are left with a false impression that they are doing their job, electing officials that support schools and making funding decisions that are adequate to meet our needs.

Your post calls teachers to action to not only stop spending their own money but to hold the public accountable for the mess that educational funding is in at the current time.

Well done


rocks1969 said...

I have been saying this for years (I can provide real teachers to confirm). The more we work for free, the more is expected of us (not a new concept). It gets worse: the more 'tech' stuff we do for our colleagues, the more interruptions to our own classes occur; the more nagging we experience; the less value our administrators and aforementioned colleagues place on our regularly appointed duties (as a teacher).

It is YOUR time: stop letting others think they own it.

pantherfan45 said...

I agree with you completely and as a child of 2 educators I grew up in this model. Now as a professional I try to not let that happen, sometimes perhaps to much, but my organization skills are not the best and i am working that.

The comment I would make about dan gorss's comment is that the professions he listed all have the opportunity for merit based pay raises so there is a reward for going outside the "9-5" hours. However, in teaching there is no merit based pay, and honestly i am opposed to it. There is your salary based on years of experience and a few bumps based on degrees and certifications. I am blessed with a library budget that allows me to be reimbursed 99% of my expenses so I am not chafing under that expense. However, given the change in location I would need to be a great deal more selective about spending if that were the case.

Getting parents to complain however, you have to be careful that they don't get so frustrated they start wanting vouchers for private school, or that they leave and home school. Constructive Criticizing is good. Just angry venting is not necessarily as productive long term.

Thanks for posting this.

A. Mercer said...

I worked uncompensated overtime when I worked in banking. The only difference was that I wasn't tied into a rigid mandatory work schedule then. I could show up at 9 or 9:30 depending on my mood and how much sleep I had gotten the night before. I got some "comp time" but it was never on a one-to-one basis (more like 3-1). There was a pay scale there too, but more flexibility in the pay grades, so I could get some compensation from my boss for more work done. I do not think this is isolated to teachers. Most professionals I know are in this bind. Changes in who is an "exempt" employee during the Clinton years has worked out well for husband in most of his recent jobs and he's been hourly. I have yet to meet someone in an exempt job that didn't work uncompensated overtime.

There is NO way I could get all my grading and planing done in the 90 minutes of prep time I have each week. I can do some grading while students work, but I need to interact with them while they are with me too.

The district provides a tech specialist to come out once a week. Sometimes, I help with routine work and "teach" the teachers how to plug in the darn ethernet cable themselves. This means the tech has more time to take care of more complex issues in my lab. This is minimal (maybe 30 minutes a week, usually zero). The vast majority of tech support is done by someone else. I've made it clear I am NOT the repair person on campus. One time a reading coach tried to bully me into helping her with a problem on her personal Mac. I was adamant that I would NOT do that, it wasn't in my job description, and didn't know about Macs anyway.

I don't do trainings for free. I get a per-diem for each of them. My admin wants me to be the "go to" person on campus for tech, and I have told him, no, I want to train teachers to help/support themselves. So when I handed out cards with district tech trainings, I had trainings other than the ones I provide on the list.

honeymic said...

I enjoyed reading your post!

I am one of those teachers that works way past 4 o'clock. For me, it is a choice.

Personally, I got into teaching after years at a corporate office giving many, many hours to make a few people at the top a whole lotta money. After re-evaluating my life, I picked teaching as a service profession, a way to give back. The money I spend on my students is my donation to my community. We don't support public radio anymore; now we buy books for my classroom.

We were only lucky enough to have one child and I feel blessed (I don't use that word lightly) to be able to work around children and help them learn. I went into teaching when my own son was old enough to be more independent. Now I have the time to attend my students' soccer games and gymnastics meets. I realize not everyone else can do that. But I actually enjoy it and miss those times when my son did those things. We actually considered adoption, and I decided to teach instead-to be a positive role model for a classroom instead of one child.

I certainly don't have any expectations that others have followed this same path, and would NEVER ask them to put in the time I do. I also don't believe I am a better teacher or am morally superior or anything like that (you would know that if you heard me after I stubbed my toe on the bed the other day-thank goodness the windows were open so the neighborhood got to hear!) I just do what feels right and necessary to me. When I have enough, I go home.

I am so fortunate to have the support of my husband and son. This is truly a family "mission." We all go to my classroom together many nights. My husband works, my son does homework and I put up bulletin boards!

If I am somehow harming the profession then I guess I apologize. I do get overwhelmed when I realize I will never get to the end of my list. Again, I realize my situation is unique and strongly believe teachers should be compensated for their time. But that's my side of the story! And my doctor does take calls at home, so I guess he's another weirdo like me, lol.

Nadine N said...

My position is similar to honeymic's. I work outside my contracted hours by choice. I spend a great deal of time reading, connecting with my PLN, and learning - which help me be a better educator. I consider myself a professional, and I think that working outside my contracted hours comes with the territory. I get annoyed with teachers I know that complain they don't have time to learn new tools, plan for fresh lessons, work with new strategies, because their plan time is so limited. The school day isn't long enough. That's a fact. Not if you are going to plan great lessons, talk to parents, spend extra time with kids who need support, grade papers, and learn new things. A professional, which we all are, knows that in order to be excellent, we need to have commitment and find the time.

TBell said...

Very interesting post and a discussion we just had. I work with a small educational organization. We provide PD for educators. Our basic program is a 5 day intensive usually done in the summer. The follow up is implementing a PLC in the fall. As we discussed the steps, the 2 instructors from Arkansas said....whoa, we can't do that. If teachers stay after school, they have to be paid. The NC instructors couldn't wrap their heads around this idea. It was a difficult concept for them to grasp. One NC Instructor asked if the Arkansas teachers stayed after hours to work in their classrooms, etc. The reply was they do IF they choose to but if they are asked to stay later for meetings or PD, they have to be paid. Other professions and yes I believe we are professionals, aren't asked to stay after hours for training. Way to go, thanks for the post!