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Don’t want to accept responsibility? Blame teachers!

Does anyone value education anymore? It really doesn’t seems that way. I understand this country has its budget problems and every industry must make sacrifices – higher ed included – but honestly, in a world in which you can’t really be competitive without a college education, why is education one of the first things to go? Who looks at a budget and says, “No, education doesn’t need funding”? What happened to the times when this country realized it had to invest in education in order to be great? What happened to education being seen as an investment? And what happened to teaching being seen as a honorable profession?

I think I’ve found the answer – teachers at all levels of education have become easy targets for politicians who want to blame them for budget problems. Many teachers are fortunate enough to have a union that protects their jobs. This union protection helps give teachers the ability to stand up for themselves. Employees that don’t belong to a union often feel unable to stand up for themselves for fear of being fired. But teachers can and thankfully they do because in doing so they are often standing up for their students as well.

If an administrator wants a teacher to take a major pay cut while the administrator gets a raise, a teacher calls out the administrator. When programs are getting slashed while money is being spent frivolously, a teacher says something. When support services for students are cut, teachers stand up. They do this because they have the power to make their voices heard and they are using that power for the good of their students. Good teachers are never just fighting for themselves, they are also fighting for their students. Yet somehow in public discussions this gets turned around and rather than seeing teachers as advocates, politicians are making them out to be greedy millionaires who want to line their pockets with your tax dollars.

Hmmmm….if that’s what teachers were doing, wouldn’t they all be politicians? After all, aren’t politicians the people that have taken jobs that were supposed to be civil service positions and made them into career positions that eat up tax dollars?

Somehow things got turned around so that those few bad teachers that stick out in people’s minds stand in for every teacher. None of them want to do any “real” work, because we know that the pressure to make sure students actually learn something that will make them productive, successful citizens isn’t real work. We  know that spending 8 hours a day teaching multiple classes of 2o-30 students and then having papers to grade at home isn’t real work. We know that having a job that requires writing lesson plans and continually reading up on your topic isn’t real work. When you get into higher ed, we know that the pressure to publish and be a scholar in your field in addition to teaching isn’t real work (and those scholars certainly don’t help attract students to your institution, so it’s not like they are doing anything for the university community), and we know that having your students be able to be in constant contact with you via email which means that you teach 24/7 isn’t real work. We know that working the equivalent number of hours as someone who works 40+ hours a week 52 weeks a year but condensing those hours into less than 52 weeks a year isn’t real work, and it’s anything but intense. We also know that doing work when you’re not officially teaching so that you teach effectively isn’t real work. None of that is real work, right?

But here’s something else that I’m sure no one considers real work. Being more than just a teacher. And by that I mean you are also a mentor. You are also a positive role model. Your classroom may provide the only stability some of those students have in their lives. You’re also someone who students come to when they are vulnerable, when they tell you they couldn’t complete a paper because they had to bail a parent out of jail, or they got kicked out of their house, or they are living in a shelter. Or finding out that a student is being abused and knowing that you have an obligation to report that. I’ve had those realities, and this is only my first semester teaching at a college. I’m dealing with adults. Many teachers deal with these problems with minors, which puts even more of a burden on the teacher.

Teachers are more than teachers. We do the work of educators, counselors, administrators, disciplinarians. We become more than just someone standing up in front of a room lecturing. We become people that are charged with the emotional and physical well being of students in addition to their academic well being.

And we do it all while we are under appreciated, while our jobs are being taken away, while our class sizes are exploding out of control.  And all of this at the time of the year when we work is dedicated to nothing but work, work, and more work.  And we get blamed for everything because we speak out. We aren’t afraid to say our working conditions are terrible and that our pay is ridiculous for what we have to do. The sad fact of life is that no one wants to do a job they don’t get paid well for doing. Why should we not want to get paid well for a job that requires continuing education throughout our lifetime? Why shouldn’t quality candidates be attracted to this field? If you don’t attract quality teachers, what’s the point of even having a student spend time being educated?

Teachers aren’t saying they want everything while everyone else suffers. But they are saying that if the administration deserves it, then they do. At least that’s what I think they are saying. If your boss deserves a raise, so do you. If times are tough, then no one gets one. In this time when everyone has to make sacrifices, then EVERYONE in EVERY INDUSTRY must give, not just teachers in education.

But why look at the reality? Let’s just blame the teachers. They don’t do any real work anyway.

____________________

Christina Steffy | MLIS Candidate, Rutgers & Freelance Writer

26 Comments to Don’t want to accept responsibility? Blame teachers!

  1. zainab fattah // December 20, 2011 at 4:34 am // Reply

    Well done. Very nice article… ppl must hear the other side and know that teachers shouldnt be easy targets…best of luck

    Zainab Fattah
    mideast reporter at Bloomberg News..

    • Hello, Zainab,

      I’m sorry I missed giving you a personal thank you for your comment on this article. It means so much to me to know that this article, which I passionately wrote during my first semester as an adjunct instructor at a community college, is striking a cord with people.

  2. Andrea Egizi // May 5, 2012 at 9:15 am // Reply

    Wonderful article! I have had this very argument numerous times over, mostly about the teachers union keeping on “bad” teachers. I will share this with those people who sought to make the teachers look bad. Thank you

  3. Andrea, I’m so glad you are going to share this. Now that I’ve been an online instructor for two semesters now, I can also add to this post by saying that a job that most people consider to be easy because I’m not even in the classroom is anything but easy. Those of us that teach online are essentially teaching 24/7. Students take online courses because they need to work outside the traditional classroom hours, and we are expected to do that as well. As technology changes, the demands placed on educators continue to grow despite the fact that technology is supposed to make our lives easier. Anyone who has not given an honest effort to be a good teacher should really try it before making assumptions about the profession.

  4. Lovely article, so timely, thank you! Observation: the sarcasm/negativity approach leaves the door wide open to opportunistic/out-of-context excerpts such as “When you get into higher ed, we know that the pressure to publish and be a scholar in your field in addition to teaching isn’t real work…” “None of them want to do any “real” work” etc.
    Rightwinger: “Oh, that article plainly says that those teachers DO NO REAL WORK! Hey, we’ve told you so!!”.
    Let’s not provide easy targets for their lies and distortions.
    An article slamming politicians would be appreciated. Their use of Educations as political football and as profiteering for corporate pals in the fake & useless “testing” industry, garbage publications & gadgets that only generate cash for corporations, the stifling of creativity and authority of teachers.
    These things are damnable. Teachers are demonized and must fight pack. Teachers must stop being “polite” and attack politicians and their corrupt billionaire-sponsored campaigns that continue to spread lies and hatred to win elections and funnel education money to the pockets of corporate profiteers who have damage education for over a generation.

    • I believe that anyone who is truly looking to distort the truth can do so with even the most diplomatically written article and the most unbiased statistics. The point of the style of the article is also meant to express, in a professional manner, the frustration that is felt from someone who is caught in the system. It is a way of fighting back and not being polite. Also, I do not believe all politicians think this way despite the fact that it seems the majority of them do. Rather than slamming politicians, I think that we have to point out that it’s not just politicians who hold this viewpoint. It’s society as a whole. Anyone who appears to only work 9 months out of the year is an easy target to begin with. Add to that the rising cost of property taxes and tuition yet the seeming decrease in the quality of education and the increased fees for things tuition doesn’t cover, and of course the reality becomes distorted. People outside of the education system don’t understand how the money works, and unfortunately before they make judgments and financial decisions they don’t have a clear understanding of the inner workings. But I believe that while politicians hold the purse strings, society as a whole has a distorted image of what educators do and so we cannot simply slam politicians. We must also make society look at its values and its opinions.

      • Thank you…and to add insult to injury now as teachers are job performance is based on student test scores. Test that take place one day a year….so my student’s parents told them they are getting divorced or their dog died, or they slept horrible the night before the test, or went to bed hungry…or they really don’t like school and haven’t done much work all year and really don’t care….when do we get to test the parents??? The ones that are never home, some because they work at night, others because their in the local bar. What about the parent who never calls the teacher, or never responds to a note sent home. How about the parent who complains when you keep their child after school for extra help, or the one that told me once that they were just too busy to check each night on their child’s homework. In college we are taught to assess students in multiple ways, but NY State says that oh no one test is good enough to gauge whether a student had a ‘good’ teacher or not. I hope they start keeping track of how many patients are unhappy with their doctors, lawyers, auto dealers, and politicians etc…and then we can rate their performances also….don’t get me wrong I love teaching…but good teachers don’t leave because of the students they leave because of the lack of respect and politics that takes place within a district!

        • Suzanne, it’s terrible to think that some states think it can be distilled down to one test. There really is so much else going on that it’s impossible to base everything on one test. The whole concept of “teaching to the test” destroys the concept of education, in my opinion. The world of education is very different, and the idea of basing things on student/parent satisfaction is also something to be careful of. It has its good points, but it also shouldn’t be the only measure of success. Hospitals are dealing with HCAPS and patient satisfaction surveys impacting their funding. The problem with hospitals and education using this measure is that satisfaction goes down when hospitals and schools don’t have enough funding to properly do their jobs. Politics and lack of respect do take their toll on educators, and it’s unfortunate that this ultimately makes students suffer.

  5. I am a Parents As Teachers Educator. My program reaches parents and children pre-natal to age 5. I am now funded by the Maternal Infant Early Childhood Grant which is part of the Affordable Care Act.
    This program is often the first experience a parent has with the local school. We strive to help parents see how important they are in the lives of their children and what they can do do open that wonderful brain to thinking and learning. I have raised 4 wonderful children in the public education system I know some excellent teachers and they WORK long hours and try their best to teach despite the horrid yearly tests. It is disturbing that intelligence, education, and thinking are being treated as a bad thing. It seems that there is a percentage of people in power who do not want an informed population.
    I enjoyed the article. I will share it.

  6. I cannot tell you how many times I argue that teachers have hard jobs. Most of my friends scoff at me when I say that teaching is hard. I work in an inner city school and I feel more like a therapist every day. I am leaving the public school sector because it is a horrible place to work. The bureaucracy, excessive paper work, and piddly paycheck is not worth my mental and physical health.

    • As I mentioned in an earlier response to a comment, I believe that we are an easy target because it appears that we only work 9 months out of the year and have summers off. In reality we put in the same amount of time in those 9 months as anyone whose work stretches out 12 months, and we still put in more time over the summer when supposedly have off. As far as feeling like a therapist, or even a caregiver in general, people don’t realize how responsible teachers are for the well-being of their students. In college we watch for signs of depression and a whole host of issues that students face as they are away from home for the first time and are on their own. I can’t imagine being a K-12 teacher and being the voice of minors when you suspect mental or physical abuse or family problems. And then being in the inner city schools, as you are, is a view that people don’t have when they think of teaching. Some how it seems that all teachers are pictured as working in nice, safe, technologically efficient environments when that’s not always the case. It’s too bad that your public school experiences are forcing you to leave the public sector.

    • It’s a shame you have such stupid friends.

  7. We use to hold teachers in high regard and being a student was an honor. At some point teachers became an unnecessary evil that corrupts children and get in the way of ‘real learning.’ Students are not in the ‘real world’ so education is easy and worthless. We are teaching a liberal agenda that include topics like equality and evolution. Yes there are bad teachers but there are bad doctors, lawyers, cops, etc. There will always be someone not doing their job. We should not be judged by the worst but challenged to be become the best. At some point it also became more important for me to be the student’s friend. They have hundreds of friends, just look on Facebook but few teachers. I will take the honor of being their teacher, I do not need to be their friend.
    I teach in a classroom and on-line. I am suppose to be off for the summer but I have been putting in 10 hour days 7 days a week prepping a new on-line anatomy and physiology class. You are right when you say it is a 24 hour/7 day a week job but you did not mention 365 days a year. I love teaching and I fight to maintain a high standard for my students. They may not always like it but they come back as nurses and thank me. I have gotten 3-1% raises in 12 years I am not getting rich. However I would not do any other job.

    • It certainly is a 365 day a year job. And there is definitely disconnect in what society expects teachers to be and what teachers should be. I believe part of that disconnect is due to society’s values and how society values education as a whole. I think that we, as a society, have some things to work out in terms of what expect from education now that almost everyone is expected to have a bachelor’s degree. As society’s view of education changes, so does society’s view of educators.

  8. Don’t hurt yourselves patting each other on the back. I never felt that teachers were evil – its teachers UNIONS that are evil, and to a level that the general public can’t begin to comprehend. While we, the public, the electorate, the parents, don’t expect you to shoulder all of the responsibility for a failed public school system, we certainly expect you to accept SOME OF IT. The answer to solving the educational crisis in America is NOT to pour more public money into it. We spend more per student NOW than in any time in history, yet the resulting graduation and literacy rates have never been lower. Why? WELL, for a START, how about the fact that recent additions to education funding have gone to the teachers pensions and benefits long before they ever hit the classroom?

    EVERYONE deserves a fair wage and decent benefits and retirement. If a school system is failing to produce a positive result, yet keeps doing things status quo – whose fault is it? YOU’RE supposed to be the professionals – you sure tell us that often enough. Act like it. Take control of your classrooms, AND of your union. Then perhaps you’ll get the respect you believe you deserve.

    • Ron, you certainly raise some valid concerns. I appreciate you raising these points. To start in addressing them, I don’t belong to a union. In fact there are many teachers who work in higher education as adjunct instructors who do not even have the option to belong to a union. Yet we still face the reality that many people don’t comprehend the amount of work we do, and the meager amount of money we make because we don’t have anyone protecting fair wages. Further, no one is suggesting that everyone thinks we are evil but you cannot deny the fact that there is some force acting against public education in society. No one is suggesting the answer is to pour more money into the system; at this point, we would settle for level funding. We would also settle for fair funding rather than funding that encourages teaching to standardized tests which in turn reward the schools that score high on the tests and ignore the schools that score poorly. An argument for fair funding doesn’t mean we all want raises, it means we want an adequate amount of equipment to work. We want to have technology that will benefit students, like something as basic as enough computers, or even to have enough textbooks so all students can have their own. We want to have enough teachers so that we are not trying to teach courses of 20 and 30+ students, especially when teaching large class sizes like that greatly impedes your ability to connect with students on a level that will improve their learning. We would also like funding to at least keep up with the government mandates. Taking control of a union is difficult to do when you have no time to participate in union governance, and it’s true that in the future union corruption across the board – not just in education – is something that must be dealt with. It’s also true that those in education administration know how much money will go to teacher salaries and pensions, yet they still fail to adequately plan financially. If a school system fails yet still performs the status quo, yes the school system must take a long, hard look at itself. But ultimately if the school system is forced to work with less and less money every year, we also have to accept the fact that we are being forced into maintaining the status quo. If my school didn’t have enough textbooks before massive budget cuts, it certainly won’t after massive budget cuts. At some point the administration needs to look at what must be done to work with educators to improve the situation rather than just blindly making cuts.

    • Why aren’t administrators more to blame for outcomes? There is this assumption that every school is administered well, and lack of performance is solely at the feet of teachers. When talking about dollars spent per student, we cannot leave out of that equation the building projects superintendents and school boards love to throw money at, particularly when it comes to sports.

      Much of the animus directed toward teachers from conservatives, often male conservatives, seems to resemble that produced by an ill tempered thirteen year old boy who resents teachers because they want to tell him what to do, and of course, he knows everything.

      • Yes, Administrators must share some of the responsibility here. They are in charge of the finances and the building projects and the purchase of equipment. They are also in charge of hiring people to run the school in non-teaching positions. It’s unfortunate that a lack of leadership at any administrative level can cause poor results throughout an organization. It’s also a very incorrect assumption that all schools have efficient administration. It’s also true that administrators have tough decisions to make and they have to deal with figuring out how to fund the mandated programs and provide quality education for their students. Generally people must stop pointing the finger just at teachers and look at the school system as a whole.

    • rebecca biddick // July 2, 2012 at 2:18 pm // Reply

      Ron–Lay out, if you would, the specifics you have regarding the evils of teachers’ unions. I hear constantly that the union is the problem but there is never any analytical information of data to support the claims. I seriously want to know! What makes the unions so bad for kids and how do unions negatively impact student learning?

    • Ron,
      Before you post a rant, check your facts. The graduation rate has never been lower? Are you kidding? Try 50% in the early 1950′s. Literacy rates never lower? How about never higher? Remember when people signed with an “x”? Remember when people were denied their right to vote if they couldn’t read?

      http://nepc.colorado.edu/author/berliner-david-c

      When you use comparatives like the one you used, it suggests that you really do not want to know the facts. You really just want to blast away to support your position about unions and their influences.

      I am a 25+ year superintendent and HS principal. I have had my share of running up against silly and sometimes combative union leaders. However, most of the time, I have found these folks to be reasonable and really longing for more professionalism. They want to be proud of the profession.
      The junk that you find in negotiated agreements are usually the result of bad leadership prior to the contract. Ill informed decisions by administrators, which negatively impact the learning environment result in language in negotiated contracts that is cumbersome for everyone.

      In other words, they want the administrators to do their jobs, thoroughly evaluate the staff and “move out” those who perform poorly. However the union will be, rightly in my opinion, forceful in their defense of a staff member who has not been thoroughly evaluated but subjected to termination. They will be forceful in their defense when a staff member or advisor or coach is being bullied by a parent, group of parents, or even an activist board member who has a single issue agenda that is unfair and not in the best interests of ALL of the students. The issue in schools is less about unions and more about strong, courageous, visionary, leaders who choose to LEAD rather than blow in the wind. Blaming unions, negotiated contracts, etc.. is a way of not accepting the full responsibility of the leadership position that you have. I tell my graduate students who are pursuing school leadership licensure to quit complaining about the circumstances in which you lead, and just LEAD!.

  9. Calling You Out // July 3, 2012 at 11:30 am // Reply

    Ron, you obviously don’t value paying for education, so here is a lesson for free.

    “I never felt that teachers were evil – its teachers UNIONS that are evil, and to a level that the general public can’t begin to comprehend.”

    As Rebecca said, prove it. Show exactly HOW unions are evil point-by-point with evidence. Simply stating that something is one thing or another without any real backing of the statement is engaging in the practice of “spreading rhetoric”.

    “While we, the public, the electorate, the parents, don’t expect you to shoulder all of the responsibility for a failed public school system, we certainly expect you to accept SOME OF IT.”

    Teachers who are union members are also the public, the electorate, the parents AND the tax payers in this fine society. Stop pretending they belong to some “entity” that is separate from all the things YOU are. Your “labeling” is quite foolish, but I can see how easy it is to fall for this divide-and conquer tactic–it’s one of the oldest political games in the book, and you have become a pawn. Those who feed others this nonsense seek to show you how you are one thing and unions are another in an effort to make enemies out of unions. If I were you, I would be livid that they are insulting your intelligence with this tack. How manipulative of them.

    “The answer to solving the educational crisis in America is NOT to pour more public money into it.”

    First off, what exactly is “the educational crisis in America?” Until you can state what is wrong point-by-point and back each point up with evidence from many credible and unbiased sources, your claim is nothing more than a talking point.

    ” We spend more per student NOW than in any time in history, yet the resulting graduation and literacy rates have never been lower. Why?”

    Are you trying to tell us that you think that every budget in the US schools is exactly the same? Where are you getting your statistics? Do you have anything to back up your claim about literacy “rates?” (I didn’t know that there was a “price” on literacy.) Again, I think you need to cite your sources in order to make your claims.

    “WELL, for a START, how about the fact that recent additions to education funding have gone to the teachers pensions and benefits long before they ever hit the classroom?”

    You seem to have a very wrong understanding of benefits and pension–these exist as part of total compensation for doing a job. Salaries are far too low for the credentials and experience required to perform many education jobs, so to make up for the deficit in salaries and allow people with the background necessary for teaching to actually, oh, I don’t know, eat and pay their bills, compensation is awarded through many avenues beyond salary, i.e. benefits.

    Believe me, the public could not afford to pay educators what they are worth–without compensation packages you would have no one of quality wanting to do the job. By allowing collective bargaining for these benefits, the districts save money and they retain a quality staff.

    Now going back to your argument about where recent additions to education funding ultimately do go:
    First, the largest percentage of any school system is its teaching staff–without it you have no system. Now, if you’re expecting that the system NOT fund its staff, you are insinuating that the staff is not valuable to the system. This is preposterous.

    Secondly, how could you know what is allotted for each budget item for every district in the US–are you some sort of super accountant? You need to open your eyes to what’s happening in education in regard to it as an industry. Standardized testing IS an industry with private employment interests (i.e. test preparation companies, test materials companies, statistics measuring/reporting companies, consulting companies, etc.) taking a very large piece of the pie. Note that every mention of who is involved OUTSIDE of the educators themselves has the word “companies” in it. Are you expecting that these “companies” do not require payment?

    Couple the need to fund the “work” of these companies with the technology initiative that is being touted in the public school system (yes, it IS a district “goal” in just about any school district I’ve worked in, imagine that…integrating technology is a GOAL of public education!) and you have Microsoft, Apple, Dell, etc. either making HUGE profits on the schools or receiving tax benefits for lowering prices on their already over-inflated products thus taking their contributions to the tax base and society in general out of the equation all the while making PROFITS on the goods and services they sell to the public schools. And you, sir, are paying for this.

    Education has become big business–why not go after the private interests IN education if you’re so concerned about where the money is going…or maybe you didn’t know how much of the money needed to run our public schools goes to private industry? Technology is being FORCED down the mouths of educators, and school systems would rather buy 100 iPads (and their care plans + frequently upgrade the software and hardware in the district) than hire another teacher. This is reality–your ridiculous rhetoric is not.

    “EVERYONE deserves a fair wage and decent benefits and retirement.”

    Agreed, which is why you should be supporting unions instead of bashing them. If more people understood the value of a union, there would be much more than the 1% and much less of the 99%–the wealth would be spread among the masses in a more socially acceptable way. I don’t know about you, but I don’t require a six-figure income to be happy, however I sure would like to be able to pay my bills instead of reading about how the people in the finance industry, an industry that caused this economic mess in the first place, are getting bonuses larger than five years of my piddly salary, and then read comments from people with very little knowledge of how education works blaming TEACHERS for the economic mess of the entire country. This is insanity–you are complaining about the WRONG people.

    “If a school system is failing to produce a positive result, yet keeps doing things status quo – whose fault is it?”

    Using what statistics can you say that the system in failing? I’m TIRED of the argument that the children of this country are not on top.

    First off, you obviously do not know how other countries keep out the learning disabled from their statistics. You do not know how high schools throughout the world funnel their students into programs where they know they will be successful, and then only provide test scores for those students in academically-rich programs while leaving students who would not perform well in those programs out of the statistics. You don’t know the half of what goes on, so be cautious when you are using arguments about what is a positive result and what isn’t. The comparisons are skewed. And before you use the argument that private schools prepare students better than public schools, keep in mind that private schools do not educate everyone–they have the prerogative to keep the poor and disadvantaged students out of THEIR statistics, too. So if you’re intelligent enough to do your own research, you will be much, much more informed about “the way it is.”

    “YOU’RE supposed to be the professionals – you sure tell us that often enough. Act like it. Take control of your classrooms, AND of your union. Then perhaps you’ll get the respect you believe you deserve.”

    Sorry, you seem to forget that a union IS its members–there is no “thug” like Jimmy Hoffa in control of our unions. To further prove that you are misinformed, I suppose you haven’t heard that there is more than one teachers union in the country, and they are VERY different, yet, again, you assume you know everything about them.

    Why not educate yourself a little more before you spew rhetoric without evidence? That’s not so difficult an assignment unless you think you don’t need to be an educated citizen and would rather let others tell you what’s going on. I suppose it’s your choice to live in ignorance, but I cannot stand idly by and allow your ignorance to influence the future of this country without commenting.

    • Nothing wrong with what Ron said. I have first hand experience with what is wrong with teachers’ unions, and the members do have a responsibility for the decisions that those unions act on. When you have a finite budget, and its declining every day, where do those dollars get spent? Well, the union fights for those dollars to go their members. If they don’t compromise, or worse, demand more, who loses? The kids. It IS that simple. Its been done here in my community, and if done elsewhere, chances are thats why so many people are fed up with teachers’ complaints. Who fights for the dollars towards kids?
      You KNOW what is ahead of you when you choose the career of being a teacher. You KNOW working for the government will not be lucrative because its based on revenues from everyone else. What if everyone else is out of work? You KNOW what salary you were earning and the work involved when you signed your contract. You didn’t live in a bubble, you talked to former and current teachers, you worked in the classroom before achieving your final goal. To have discourse with the public about job dissatisfaction is disingenuous.
      The problem has always been budgets. People have always supported their teachers, but when they start to see administrations chip away at what their children need or deserve because unions have won large, expensive contracts, we do blame the members of those unions.
      Again, this is my experience in my area. Teachers are well payed, definitely not over worked, and my kids don’t have books, losing programs, and arts and sports turning into pay to play. We are also losing very important support staff, including teachers, because there is absolutely no compromise from the union heads. Many teachers see their community’s needs and are willing to compromise, but again, cant get union heads to budge.
      Take responsibility or we all lose.

      • Calling You Out // July 4, 2012 at 11:54 pm // Reply

        “ I have first hand experience with what is wrong with teachers’ unions,…
        Ok, you’re basing your claims on your personal experience which is perfectly ok to do. Just be careful that you do not color an entire group of people without having done some valid research first.

        “…and the members do have a responsibility for the decisions that those unions act on.”
        They do which is the whole point of a union—it’s not some small group of leaders who are telling everyone else what to do. A union IS its members.

        Speaking of first-hand experience, I have some with school districts who HAVE the money to support their teaching staff but still refuse to support them, as a matter of principal, even with a third party arbitrator telling them they CAN afford it. This is what some districts do. Notice, I’m not saying that all school districts do this.

        “When you have a finite budget, and its declining every day, where do those dollars get spent? Well, the union fights for those dollars to go their members.”
        First off, what is the purpose of a labor union? It is to negotiate the working contract of its members. The union exists for its members by its very nature. To complain that the union does its job is ridiculous. Unions compromise—that’s part of the negotiations process.
        I think what you REALLY want union members to do is to work for less than they are worth. Perhaps that’s your interpretation of “compromise.” There are many, many issues on the table in negotiated contracts.

        “If they don’t compromise, or worse, demand more, who loses? The kids. It IS that simple.”
        Again, semantics. Unions DO compromise just as school districts do. That’s how the negotiations process works.

        “Who fights for the dollars towards kids?”
        Even teachers unions do. Where I live, the state teachers union is lobbying to effect change with some of the legislation that affects kids negatively in order to promote a better education for the students. The legislature is taking notice and including these experts in the dialogue to further improve our schools so that funding is appropriated in a way that’s beneficial to public education.

        “You KNOW what is ahead of you when you choose the career of being a teacher. You KNOW working for the government will not be lucrative because its based on revenues from everyone else. What if everyone else is out of work? You KNOW what salary you were earning and the work involved when you signed your contract. You didn’t live in a bubble, you talked to former and current teachers, you worked in the classroom before achieving your final goal.”
        Yes, teachers understand that the job has crappy pay and the responsibilities compound on each teacher every year, but they still expect to be paid for the job they do.
        It appears that you are saying that just because teachers are on the public payroll, they should somehow be treated as if their work has no or a very little value. Is that fair to say?

        Look at it this way…when times are bad, the public is instructed by many of those in political power to ask public employees to struggle along with the private sector. However, when times are good, no one and I mean NO ONE is handing out bonuses to teachers. When the private sector is doing well and everyone else is making a very good living, no one is spreading that wealth down to teachers. The public expects them to live with less than what everyone else is making. Teachers know this and accept this because it’s good for the districts to have a stable form of compensation—why over-inflate it? So why is it that when times are bad, teachers are expected to make less? No one is in this profession to get rich—and the claim that teachers get paid well is absurd. (You try paying off loans for a 4-year college degree while supporting a household on a teacher’s salary.) However, paying people what they are worth for the job they do is how you get a dedicated and quality staff—I’ve said it before. If you devalue these people, you won’t have a teaching staff worth its salt.

        If your district has budget issues, there are many, many places where the budget can be examined for waste.

        In my district, every time a new superintendent or assistant superintendent moves into a workspace, the district foots the bill for new carpeting, paint and furniture. This is preposterous to me, but it is one of those hidden costs that the district incurs to make the administrator comfortable.
        Every time the district decides to adopt a new language arts curriculum program (which is almost every 2-3 years), the district pays for all new materials, the training of supervisors, AND the training of the staff to implement the new curriculum. This runs a very hefty tab, but the whims of the state or even the local administration are not inexpensive to satisfy. The private companies that put out the resources and training materials do not expect to make less because the district may be struggling financially. (But why shouldn’t they? Don’t they know that districts struggle with money issues?)
        Every year the district upgrades its technology—a good thing you might say—but only at the highest levels where the purchasing of cutting edge computing products is sport for its upper management staff.
        My point is, there are plenty of places where a district can trim its budget—to expect a teaching staff to work more with less compensation is to devalue your most important teaching resource: your staff.

        “To have discourse with the public about job dissatisfaction is disingenuous.”
        This is absolutely true—however, the amount of rhetoric spewing out of the mouths of the general public these days is disheartening for anyone in the profession. I think many teachers are fed up with the lies and the nonsense, and they DO have a right to say so. This is freedom of speech.

        “The problem has always been budgets. People have always supported their teachers, but when they start to see administrations chip away at what their children need or deserve because unions have won large, expensive contracts, we do blame the members of those unions. Again, this is my experience in my area.”
        Large, expensive contracts—by whose standards? That’s a very subjective judgment. Have you reviewed EVERY item in your district’s budget or are you going by what you’ve “heard?” You are forgetting that contracts are negotiations between two parties, not one-sided fights. Both parties get some things and give up some things during the process. The idea that unions are “winning” anything is laughable. Both sides negotiate a fair contract for both.

        Why not tell the truth: You want people to work for less than what they’re worth. When you can tell me that it’s ok for professionals to volunteer their time and effort, not to mention volunteer to spend their own money and time obtaining their credentials, then I’ll tell you that you have a point, but you comment as if you expect people to not be compensated for doing their jobs. What you are talking about is a concept that some call “shared sacrifice.” When the utility, gas, and mortgage companies stop charging more for their services, then you will have a point. When groceries and clothing prices go down, then you will have a point. What’s that? If the prices go down, so does the quality of goods and services? Why is it ok for that to happen in those industries, but not in the teaching profession? Sounds like a double-standard. It’s not the teachers’ fault that the economy has tanked, so why do you expect them to shoulder the blame?

        “Teachers are well payed,…”
        Forgive me, but what planet are you living on?

        “…definitely not over worked,…”
        I dare you to do my job for a week (AND the paperwork involved) within the allotted contracted time to do so. However, if you cannot, you can stay at my desk for the 2-3 extra hours I do each day to complete it, or you can take it home to do it on your own time outside of the contracted work day. Name the week you will sub for me, and I’ll request you as my replacement. I’m dead serious.

        “…and my kids don’t have books, losing programs, and arts and sports turning into pay to play. We are also losing very important support staff, including teachers, because there is absolutely no compromise from the union heads.”
        Again, define compromise? You are operating on a biased premise that claims that unions do not compromise—however without details as to what the district is asking for, taking away and replacing, your statement holds no water. If the district is expecting people to not be paid for the work they do, why is it only the teachers? Why isn’t it the private companies that the district employs for the numerous other contracts? Is it also administration that is expected to “compromise?”

        “Many teachers see their community’s needs and are willing to compromise, but again, cant get union heads to budge. Take responsibility or we all lose.”
        Here’s the problem with some negotiations, and many teachers do not know this unless they, too, have been part of the negotiations process: The district want to take “x” away, and the union agrees. Next contract, the district wants to now take “y” away, and the union members have lost both “x and y.” If they have gained nothing in return, how is that a compromise? Next contract, the district wants to take “z” away, and the union finally puts its collective foot down. If you allow the district to whittle away at all the protections you have fought so hard to get, you are moving backwards. When you give something up, you need to get something in return or else it is not a compromise. This goes for BOTH sides of the contract. I would be interested in hearing the complete details of the last negotiation with the union that you claim you have “first hand experience” with. What exactly was the union asked to give up—compensating people for the work they do?

        It pains me to know that folks are so quick to say that there is something wrong with teachers unions in general as if all unions (and their negotiations) are the same.

  10. I’m glad to see all of the comments here and the discussion. I think what we have is the chance to see what both sides think, and that’s the only way we will understand each other. Before making a comment here, I do want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this is a hot topic with strong emotions, so please make sure we keep posts professional in nature. Now having said that, let me point out something.

    While we do speak largely of salaries, I want to say that I should have taken the time to go more in-depth about this portion of the post: “And we do it all while we are under appreciated, while our jobs are being taken away, while our class sizes are exploding out of control.” This is not just about salaries, but that’s part of it.

    It’s true that we teachers are fed up with people telling us that we aren’t worth our salaries, which if you look at statistics aren’t anything we are getting rich off of, and we did know that getting into the profession but that doesn’t mean that we want to make less than what we do. Who in this society does? And we are simply saying that if we must make that sacrifice then we are tired of other people not having to make that sacrifice. I think anyone in society would agree with that – why must the front line workers take a cut while the others don’t? And we’re not saying that greed abounds in all levels of education that aren’t teaching. Salaries have been what’s been at the forefront of people’s minds, and we are constantly defending the fact that we are not getting rich at the expense of students’ education. Pointing the finger solely at salaries is a great way to divert attention from other problems.

    And the other problems are in the paragraph I quoted above. When we want stable funding for schools at all levels, we aren’t just saying we want stable funding for salaries. We went into this profession because we truly believe in educating students, and those of us on the front lines see how difficult that is when funding for basic necessities is cut. So we, as tax paying citizens, some of us as parents, all of us as people who went through the education system and who know people who are going through the education system now, want to see education made a priority in funding so that students can learn what they need to learn, and learn more than that. We’re not saying that means we have to replace technology and curricula every year, but we’re saying that we understand there is a basic level of funding we need to operate effectively. When you pull that out from under us, you make education suffer.

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