Friday, February 10, 2012

So You Think I am Overpaid?

'Money' photo (c) 2010, 401K - license:
Lately I have seeing a curious trend in the popular opinion about teachers. The idea that I keep seeing expressed is that teachers are actually overpaid. This doesn’t surprise me since I have seen my profession become less esteemed and more and more degraded every year since I became a teacher.

The theory about us being overpaid is that we are paid all year long for a part year job. So I decided to run the numbers to see if that is really true. Most jobs run on a 40 hour work week. Between holidays and vacation days I figure most people work 50 weeks a year. This means that most people work on average 2000 hours a year. Let’s see how teachers compare.

My contract is to work 187 days a year. My official work day is 8am-4pm which is an 8 hour day. Most teachers arrive to school at least ½ hour early and stay at least ½ hour late which brings it to a 9 hour day. Add to that a minimal 1 hour at home to grade papers, lesson plan or call parents and that means we typically work at least 10 hours a day. So 187 x 10= 1870 hours a year. However, I am also required to earn 150 Professional growth hours every 5 years so that breaks down to 30 hours a year. So now we are up to 1900 hours a year. I have to turn in progress reports every 3rd week and final grades every 6th week. Each time that adds about 2 hours of extra work as I work with students to make up work, make additional parent contacts and work with our annoying grading software that the district uses. This adds least another 12 hours. So now I am at 1912 hours a year.

If I sponsor a club, attend school sporting events, plays and concerts, volunteer for school improvement committees, keep up to date in new teaching practices, go to required open houses, an annual lighthouse event, department meetings, faculty meetings (which I do) I will easily spend at least a conservative 40 hours a year fulfilling additional duties.
That brings me to 1952 hours. Which means I work 48 hours less than my professional counterpart? But oh, wait, the state has changed the state standards for the subject that I teach so I need to rewrite my curriculum, or my principal asks me to teach a new class, or I decide to film each of my lectures at home so that absent students can watch them and not get behind. Plus, I decide to create a class website where they can get additional help for their homework and a class Facebook page so that I can keep them informed with due dates and upcoming tests. Then my school tried to save money by getting rid of two of our copiers so I either have to arrive super early to school, stay late or come in on the weekend to make my copies. So those 48 hours? They are gone and then some.

Ok, so maybe I work as many hours as a typical professional, but at least I have the luxury of a long summer, two weeks off for Christmas and an Easter break. I do not deny it, and I am grateful for those breaks. It would be hard to be a teacher without those times.

However, even with those perks please remember that I have a job that no matter how hard I work, no matter how much I care for and love my students, no matter how many extra trainings I attend to be a better teacher, I have no possibility of promotion or external recognition. The only “promotion” would be if I got my administrators credential and left the classroom. However, why is the reward for being a great teacher to take me out of the classroom? I became a teacher to teach and I love to do it.

I don’t expect a pay raise any time soon, but I do want people to stop demeaning the efforts I make every day by telling me that I am overpaid.