I have to take a deep breath as I contemplate my career.
I am a teacher, there is nothing like it for me, there is nothing that fulfills my desire for intellect, work ethic, benefiting society, and working toward changing the world than teaching does. I just saw a television advertisement for something, I cannot come close to admitting that I was even paying attention to what was being advertised; that’s not the point. The advertisement suggested that Mike Bloomberg was fired when he was in his 30’s and then began his own business that now employs over 2000 people. I thought, ‘that’s great, for him.’ The ethos holds that if you take a huge risk you will become a millionaire. I also thought that for every person who is successful there are dozens, even hundreds of people who fail. I have always been of the thought that people who are not willing to take a chance on themselves and “play it safe” will not have the chance to develop to the chances that might be there. I suggest this thinking of chances with an educated inventory of a person’s skills abilities and evaluation of exactly what they have of value.
My crazy brain has led me away from my purpose of this post, but there is value in the direction of the diversion, the educational value of students. As I push myself to grow as many people with which I come into contact, I admit the drains that are often seen in public education.
One drain is that of the overwhelming hours a public school teacher must invest in their craft. I willingly acknowledge the summer off is a nice gift, but I also want to exhibit a few details to the earning of these weeks off. To begin with, the national average salary for a teacher is somewhere in the mid $55k. That said, comparatively speaking, other jobs that will earn such a salary include curators, landscaping, and retail supervisors. All of those careers, like teaching, require dedicated persons to their occupation. They all work with indurated and rigid efforts. In those jobs, in order to make a similar type of monies, it is required to endure much competition and the need for hard work is consistent. A teacher, in order to earn the 8-10 weeks off during the summer (admitting there are often 3 additional weeks throughout the school year as well), teachers need to put in a lot more time during the school year. 180 days is the minimum students are required to attend school; teachers are required to attend at least an additional 5 days more for professional development. Most teachers have at least 70 students. Paying respect to students and providing the students with the feedback that is required to push them further to make progress as well as assessing gaps in learning to inform their further education. A teacher should spend at least 2 minutes a day per student reflecting upon how to help the specific student. Right? What this means is the work that every teacher take home daily with them is a minimum of 140 minutes (2 minutes per student and at least 70 students), mind these are minimums. The teacher then needs to synthesize the information they have gathered from assessing the students’ plan, adjust, and prepare lessons, it should take about an hour. Between lessons and daily assessments, the teacher regularly puts in 3 hours a day beyond the time when they are in school. On top of the 185 days of teaching and professional development, teachers will spend at least 1 of the 2 days, sometimes both, during the weekend working toward benefiting students’ lives. During the 40 weeks of a school year, a teacher will regularly contribute another 40+ days tabulated from their weekend work. So, where does that put the teacher in comparison to other careers? 7-hour workdays + at least 3 hours for assessing and planning = at least 10 hours a day. 185 + at least another 40 days = 225 days. Mathematical speaking, the average teacher will work 2250 hours a year (225 days x 10 hours a day). If someone were to spread a year’s worth of work into 52 weeks working 40 hours a week, that tabulates to 2080 hours a year. Cram 2250 hours into only 40 weeks, the average teacher is drained. A point to note, most teachers work in education throughout the summer or at the very least work somewhere else in order to make ends meet.
The second drain I would like to point out is paying for education. There are plenty of programs that will offer low-interest loans for your undergraduate even graduate education; teachers are usually a safe bet. This is great. Hell, you don’t need to begin paying the loans off until 6 months after you stop being a full-time student. Let me describe what this looks like:
- You graduate with your bachelor’s degree probably less than $100 k of debt in the middle of May.
- Hopefully, you get hired to teach in the fall with an average salary of less than $40 k.
- Your first paycheck will come about 4 months after your full-time student enrollment ends, 2 months before you need to begin paying the load back.
- During the time when you are learning on the job how to become an effective educator, you need to be a graduate student, part-time (which means the government will allow you to borrow more money, but the interest begins on day one), in order to earn the required master’s degree. Add about another $30 k to what you owe.
Looking back at the jobs which will earn in the mid $50 k range many of them do not require a bachelor’s degree, at times a high school diploma and the willingness to work hard is what is needed. Does the promise of $40 k – $45 k within the first 5 years of teaching draw strong teachers? No, the passion for education draws strong teachers who are willing to drain their personal finances for the beginning years of their professional lives. After the first 5 years of teaching, hopefully, these students have been able to pay off their loans and have earned a master’s degree. Comparatively speaking, what do other professionals earn after obtaining a master’s degree? Well, depending on the field it can be averaged to be just under $100 k annually. Honestly, for most, a salary is closer to $75 k; $20,000 more than the average teacher.
Another drain in education is that of the students who are forced to stride against how they are “wired”. One of the biggest ways schools are measured is by how well the students perform on tests. If a student has a disability in math, for instance, they are assisted by having additional classes in math to help them score better in math on tests. I have seen this process continually drain any enthusiasm these students had. There are no two students who learn the same way or are “wired” in the same manner. That stated, most students are able to fit within a general form that permits them to pass tests that measure the proficiency of a school. Students who have weaknesses are not encouraged to build upon their personal strengths. The strengths are drained away by forcing the students to spend more time in areas they are weak, this diminishes most encouraging abilities the student may have because there is no time in their schedule. Students who feel good about themselves and do have specific abilities often loose that enthusiasm because schools no longer will foster their brilliance, instead schools try and polish the imperfections so the school looks better. Furthermore, at this time because the students feel disenfranchised from the school process as whole they disengage from all abilities. This process does not build toward what the school’s efforts should be intending, raising students to be successful in life. What it does do is raise bring students higher in areas that are not likely going to be used in the student’s life after their school career is over.
I criticized Charter Schools in the past. Feeling they do little to build students to think for themselves, problem-solve, or improve the community in which they are held. However, I care to give some credit to the Charter Schools, their charter and the results from it prove one point that cannot be disputed: If the student-teacher ratio is low enough, the students will perform better on tests. I would like to establish that I find these tests as a faulty measure of student and school performance, but acknowledge it is what is in place and not going anywhere any time soon. The solution that Charter Schools show is that public schools need more teachers.
Strong teachers are needed. Teachers who have a passion for their craft are desired. Putting in excessive hours and bring vastly underpaid for most of their career is not easy to come by. Throwing money at the problem is not the solution, as exampled by the amount of money in Military spending to have only more conflicts and less security. Understanding apples compared to oranges, the point remains that paying for more teachers’ salaries will not solve the problem of quality teachers lowering the student/teacher ratio. The spending needs to be strategic. Teachers need loan forgiveness, teachers need to be offered performance-based bonuses, teachers need to have more ability to build upon the strengths of their students so the students do not get forced into bring overwhelmed to spend more time on skills that will, more than likely not benefit their lives after school. Admittedly, there is no “silver bullet” to improve the long term progress and benefits of the educational system. The need to grow is evident, and the need to build upon the personnel (students included) abilities. Measuring performance based on testing results, not permitting teachers to use their skills to do what is best for the students who are in front of them, forcing administrators to not bring forth the reason they went into education in the first place.