Thursday, September 6, 2007

Time vs Pay

In many states, there is a concentration on raising the base starting wage for teachers. As a teacher, I love the idea of being paid as a trained professional with incredible responsibilities. I think it is so nice to see at least some token respect for teachers is formally materializing as some form of financial increase.

I don't know too many people that would complain about getting more money, except for those right on the bubble for receiving state assistance services. Fortunately most teachers are not near that bubble, and can embrace the idea of getting more pay to help offset the annual increases in health care that seems to have become an annual event here in Maine.

I wonder though, if you were to ask teachers from all over the state what one aspect would improve their ability and love of teaching, I bet money would not be the majority answer. No, if you know anything about teaching, you already know that many teachers would die for more time. Yes, time is the currency in teaching now.

The family units have been in decline in our society for many years and more and more the responsibilities that used to be family responsibilities are now thrust on our teachers. Teachers are getting pushed to now train kids to take tests that help the school and community look good rather than work on assessing what students in his or her class may need help on most. Most teachers have never had training with all of the great new practices and tools available to them, but cannot get out of the classroom in many cases for various reasons. Even those teachers that do get out and get some training, can never get the time to set up some of the new stuff they have learned in their class. Add in the current anxieties about consolidation, and is it any wonder that many teachers want to close and lock their doors? With all of these pressures and increases in responsibilities I propose that almost every teacher could benefit most from an increase in purposeful time.

Some very forward thinking schools have already realized the value of giving time to teachers and I would LOVE for those schools to post their findings here and elsewhere to share with others how much more teachers can accomplish with some adjustments to how their time is used. I have talked to so many principals who have extolled the virtues of having teachers work together on curriculum, work to develop cross curriculum activities, work towards learning new technologies and many other aspirations I think all can agree will help many teachers. Strangely, almost every one of those principals does not have any time set up in the teacher's day to get these things done. Sure, many have stipends to attend training or to attend weekend seminars, but the day to day time teachers have to work with other teachers or on personal growth is non existent.

So all you teacher union people out there, all you politicians, all of you local school board members, and anyone else that is in a position to positively help promote a much needed educational change, WE NEED YOU! Teachers are too busy trying to "survive" in our current classrooms, to have time for any of that "other stuff" I once brought up the concept of teacher time to a friend that was on a school board. To my horror, this friend of mine shared that there was a view on that particular board that "teachers are little more than over paid babysitters". I am so hopeful that this was an isolated view, but with many taxpayers looking at the percentage of tax money going into education and the negative news we hear about how our schools are all failing...well I fear that many may be ignorant of the incredible work that teachers accomplish every day. They do this extraordinary work as professionals who are trained, fingerprinted and certified. They do this with a pay scale that is one of the lowest of any profession that requires at least 4 years of schooling and certification. The do their incredible work, teaching and filling in for family responsibilities that are still in rapid decline, with huge hearts and phenomenal stamina. And they are doing all of this, with almost no TIME available in their day to improve anything.

If your school has recently changed things around to afford teachers more time during the day, could you PLEASE post some of your experiences, thoughts, insight here? It is out there somewhere that only 1 in 9 people that read a blog will respond to something even when it hits a chord. Many of you are in a position to help educate others on the need and methods of adding in structured time in the teaching day. We need YOU to help the rest of us hear the troubles, see the effects, and to offer strategies that work. All it takes is a little courage, some basic typing ability, and of course, a little of your valuable time. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!


diane-fhs said...

Hmmm, so 24 hours has gone by and there are 0 comments telling stories of ways that teachers have been granted more prep time in their day. What a surprise.

In my case, the teachers are their own worst enemies. No one will advocate for a more reasonable workload. Sit around whining and complaining, yes. Advocate, no. I wrote a detailed analysis of my work day and 55-hour work week in an attempt at such advocacy. Colleagues told me it was well done and well written, but no one else would jump on the bandwagon and play in the band with me, so I was left playing a solo. And the sound of one instrument playing alone doesn't travel very far.

I've been told by teaching colleagues right in this building to leave teaching if I don't like the workload. I've also been told to just accept the work overload because it's never going to change -- and guess who told me that? My building union representative! Why am I paying $400/year union dues to be told to accept wrongdoing because it will never change?

Well, I'd go on, but this is a post about time, and it's Friday afternoon, and the building is pretty empty. Guess that's a sign that my time is my own now!

Ed Latham said...

You post a frustration that I feel many encounter. The lack of posting here is not a surprise really. All of the research about blog readers indicates that few respond on the blog. I have received emails. I find that sort of funny. I have very few responses to my posting here on the blog, but I get numerous responses by email. I find it curious, but at the same time I am thankful for those of you that have taken the time to share your thoughts with me. Diane you have inspired me to write another post, but the boy scout troop is ready to leave for the weekend and as I am their leader, well I guess I better get running.

George Crawford said...

My school really hasn't made much opportunity for extra time to work on things. I work in a small school where I wear many hats and this doesn't leave too much time for extra things. We do receive time on some workshop days when there is no professional development planned to get extra stuff done but we are expected to do a great deal.

One point in your blog entry about time mentions failures of schools and how they are often seen by the public. We as teachers need to better publicize our success. Often the press about schools talks about faliures such as lowering test scores, test scores not improving despite more money being pumped into education etc. This is also used to push a certain political need at times.

We need to brag about some of our everyday success and be specific. Most reports about failing schools talk in generalities. Schools need to talk about both and show how we are improving. We try out best as teachers to leave, "No Child Left Behind" but we need to show our success and what we need to improve on.

diane-fhs said...

A clarification in response to Ed: my point was that a post that specifically solicited feedback from teachers who had experienced an increase in prep time received no responses. What that represented to me was that no one has been lucky enough to be granted more prep time despite the increasing difficulty of meeting all of the requirements that come with teaching in 2007. It wasn't an observation about low blog traffic in general, although I would love to see more people contributing to discussions on this blog. I told my whole staff about it after the MLTI conference in August because it's a great resource with all these links in one place.

In response to George: you summed up the problem in your first paragraph when you said "we are expected to do a great deal" but "(haven't) made much opportunity for extra time to work on things." This is what frustrates me. Every year new responsibilities are added and the time to meet those responsibilities comes out of teachers' personal time since there is no more time in the day. Granted, teachers don't wish to cut into their contact time with students. But since no prep time is being added to the day, teachers arrive earlier in the day, stay later in the afternoon, and work evenings and weekends to get everything done. And in my case, when I have protested that, I've been told to leave teaching if I don't like it.

One of my vivid childhood memories is my math teacher father spending evenings correcting papers after supper on weeknights and going to school on Sunday afternoons to do work. I used to go with him and play with the giant protractor and compass on the blackboard. Years of my teaching career went by before I realized that I never questioned the insanity of spending evenings and weekends working on schoolwork because that was what was modeled for me in childhood. Many teachers are from teaching families; I wonder how many others are like me and have never noticed that "something's wrong with that picture" of working nights and weekends because that's the model we grew up with?

On a related note, I received an e-mail inviting me to become a contributor to this blog! I am flattered to be invited and will get right on that. Although, I will make sure in the future NOT to blog under the influence of a headache after a noisy Friday afternoon assembly in the gym to ensure that I will make my point clearly the first time!

Jim Burke said...

We look forward to your posts, Diane! :)

The idea here is to have a simple, straightforward way of putting questions, thoughts, and resources out there for Maine teachers (and others) to share. The intention is for the space to be fluid and eclectic, with at least one new post every day, but with easily accessed archiving and access to helpful resources. Putting labels (keywords, tags) for original post articles would help in this regard, which I've been guilty of not doing . . .but hope to improve my habits in the future. :)

Thanks again for your enthusiastic input.


Becky Ranks said...

I feel like I have to jump into this conversation and defend the district that I am associated with, MSAD 11. In the past three years our district has all bu eliminated duties for elementary teachers, and I think other districts nearby have gone the same route. The high school teachers that I work with are afforded common planning time weekly at least 80 minutes long.This is not to say that all is perfect as we have early release days and workshop days that are often planned by others, but the knowledge from the administration that teachers do not have enough time, and a clear attempt from them
to try to provide that time is evident. I can say that we are working on it.