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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A Response

In the comment thread on the Matt Damon video, Rugles writes: "Do teachers in Seattle really work long hours for crappy pay?"

Well, I can only speak for myself. I will let others decide if my pay is crappy:

As for my hours, let me break down a day. I was getting to Rainier Beach about 6:30. I would use that 90 minutes before school to get my day fully organized, get some grading done, and help out any students who would come by before school. I would then teach from 8 till 2:30. I would stay till 5:00 or so, planning for the next few days, helping students, and being on various school committees. So Monday to Friday, 6:30 till 5:00 is 10.5 hours a day. Yes, I get 30 minutes for lunch, but I have students in my room, so while I do eat, I am still working. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, I would hit the library to do research on teaching math, try to write interesting lessons, grade papers (grading never goes away), and plan for the next week. The weekend work is 6 hours on average. So (5 * 10.5) + 6 = 58.5 hours per week. Let me say that I love my job and I am not complaining, whining, or grousing in any manner. I am sharing my reality as a teacher.

Now that it summer, I just finished teaching summer school in Shoreline (it was pretty fun, actually. I taught an Algebra 1 Jump class to middle schoolers). At this moment, I am in the library, going through my materials for the upcoming year (I have transferred to Ingraham and I want to be prepared), making sure that I will be teaching the state standards to the students in the fall and generally working on being the best teacher I can be. I have spent 4 hours on both Monday and today on this. I can see this lasting until we go back.

Ingraham has various events planned for later this month (orientation and bridge programs) that I will most likely attend. I won't get paid for going, but I go anyway, so I can meet the students and the parents and help them ease their transition to high school.

As for the upcoming school year, I plan on getting to Ingraham at 6:30. The good part is I live 5 blocks away and if the light at 130th and Aurora is green, I get there in 2 minutes. I will gain 30 minutes of sleep every day. I plan on staying till 5:00. The good part is my gym will be 1 minute away, so I can get a workout in before going home. I am looking forward to that.

In my experience (6 years), the great majority of the teachers work very hard, are well prepared and very professional. Could most teachers make more money using their skills somewhere else? Probably, but they don't because they want to leave the world a better place and make a difference and impact other peoples lives.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I also teach - elementary - and would concur with much of what Michael has written. The total number of hours I spend teaching and completing necessary work outside of teaching depends on a number of factors, including class size, needs of the class, if I've had a grade level change (I've had 5), and if we've had a new curriculum adoption that requires time to learn and adjustment of instructional practices. In general though, I get to school about 7:30 - 7:45 after a 1/2 hour commute, have about an hour of prep 2 mornings a week before school and meetings the other 3 mornings. Kids leave at 3:30 and I generally leave about 5:30 - 6pm, after grading some of the day's more crucial assignments, planning the next day's lessons, and (unfortunately) attending more meetings. Lunch is maybe 20 minutes long after dealing with the usual forgotten lunch box and other lunch-related issues, and generally 2-3 days a week I have kids in working during what is supposed to be my duty-free lunch. I usually take about an hour's worth of grading home with me each night (more if I've given a test) and spend at least one weekend day either planning at home or coming into school, when I can actually have unfettered access to the copy machine and have time to search out books in the library. So an average week for me would also come out to about 10.5 hours per day at school, plus another hour at home grading for a total of 11.5 hours per day. Add in my weekend day - usually 6-7 hours, and I'm looking at 11.5 x 5 + 6 for an average total of 63.5 hours per week spent on classroom stuff. If I've had a grade level change, then that year needs about an hour added on per day, and the same goes for when my class size goes over 31-32 or when I have a lot of high-impact students that have IEP accommodations and/or ELL accommodations that need to be made. When report card times come around, I can easily be working in my classroom until 10 or 11pm for several nights in a row, and there are often 3-4l of us who stay that late to get things done - which I am grateful for since it's less creepy to walk through a deserted building and out to the parking lot when you're with a small group than it is on your own - so those weeks can easily hit 78-80 hours.
Contrary to popular belief, summer vacation is not really a 3-month vacation, nor are any of the other breaks truly "breaks". Those are usually regarded as my "catch-up" times, when I have bit more time to analyze student needs, design instructional activities, develop new plans, grade, evaluate past work, and plan some more.

While I wouldn't say my pay is crappy, I'm certainly not compensated based on my educational levels (PhD) in comparison to what I would be making in industry as an instructional designer or corporate trainer, nor am I compensated for the number of hours I actually work - though that is often true for most people on salary rather than hourly compensation, particularly those in middle management. However, it was my choice to move from industry into education, and for now there are still aspects of my job that are enjoyable and rewarding enough to make me stay, and my salary allows me to live reasonably comfortably (though I can't afford buy a decent house or condo in the Seattle area and still pay off student loans), thus I can still afford to do a job that I (mostly) enjoy. Unfortunately if more of this ed deform comes to pass and I am forced to do more teaching to the test and holding kids back due to the misguided notion that retaining a kid who can't read year after year is good educational practice, then I will be returning to industry, where at least when I have to enforce unpleasant guidelines and/or policies, it is on adults rather than children....
-CT

Matt's mom is a teacher too said...

Matt Damon's point seems to have been off mark, not for lack of respect for the hard work we teachers do but in his apparent frustration with then dumb reporter that was putting down what we do. It is evident he recognizes our work and thinks we should be highly regarded and respected. Good comeback he made to the cameraman too.

NotGettingHungUp said...

I don't think ALL teachers have crappy pay, but right out of school, for the level of education required, the pay is on the low end of things. I also think the hours are long, teachers are required to work with students with a variety of demands and issues and are expected to deliver stellar results for every student despite the inherent inequities in the social fabric of the US.
I think teachers in Seattle tend to make more than teachers in many areas of the country, so the crappy pay comment may be more of a universal feeling of hard working, educated and compassionate people not being appreciated and compensated as they could if they chose a different profession.
He was defending the profession, a profession that has been much maligned and historically lower paying than other fields.

Josh Hayes said...

He was defending the profession, a profession that has been much maligned and historically lower paying than other fields.

And this is at least partly (perhaps in large part?) because teaching has historically been a profession open to women. And gosh knows, we don't have to pay THEM, right, because they'll all get husbands who'll support them so they can loll about eating bonbons, whatever the heck THOSE are.

BTW, Michael, my son starts at Ingraham this fall, so, it's a loss for RB, but our gain, that you'll be there! Hope to see you up there!

Josh Hayes said...

Just in case, let me add that the above comment about women and husbands was sarcasm. Okay? Just trying to point out that women are always underpaid, and since many teachers are women, the two things travel together.

Jan said...

That, Josh, plus the fact that some folks just passionately want to teach. For them, it is like a calling -- and they are willing to "trade" a certain amount of money for the ability to do what they love -- like many musicians, artists, etc. There are "elements" of this in the other professions as well (doctors, lawyers, etc. -- some of whom are willing to work in specific fields for less pay, because they so love what they do). But I think you are correct -- combining that with the fact that "traditionally" many teachers were women, who "did not need to be paid as much as men" has definitely skewed the pay scales in teaching.

rugles said...

I wasn't proposing/suggesting/advocating that teachers pay be cut when I asked the question and I am not anti-union.

And I guess the answer to my question is that, in general, Seattle teachers work hard during the school year and don't completely take the summer months off. Pay is not crappy but not great either (not all non-teachers are investment bankers).

"Could most teachers make more money using their skills somewhere else? Probably"

I don't recommend putting this to the test right now.