Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. I’m an Educator Who Disagrees with Teacher Walkouts

 

This is a post from my blog that I wrote back in 2018 when the “Red for Ed” frenzy, to increase Arizona’s education funding, was happening.

I’m an educator with a different perspective from what you probably see in the media regarding Red for Ed protests. I worked in public schools for 12 years, as an afterschool provider, teacher, administrator and more. I’ve taught in three states and don’t claim to be an expert in everything education, but I have my experiences, and don’t agree with what’s happening. Let me explain.

1. We chose to be teachers and knew it didn’t pay much. Most of us don’t pick this field for the money, but we are accountable for our choices. You can easily research pay scales, benefits, etc. for districts and states. We do our searching, make our choice and sign the contract. I had a professor spend an entire class explaining how he supported his family on a meager teacher’s salary, with sacrifices, but he made it work, and encouraged us to really ponder this before moving on in the program.

But, some argue, the hours, all the hours and little pay don’t balance out. I know the hours dedicated teachers put into their jobs, I’ve been there. We do what’s expected, then more because we care. I cried when I got my first paycheck, after deductions, it wasn’t much more than what I made in college. In time though, I came to appreciate the other benefits of my job, like healthcare, retirement plan, and days off.

Yes, days off. I enjoyed the flexibility of choosing to relax, travel, catch up on work, or find ways to earn extra money. Teachers are nine, maybe ten-month employees. I know they take work home, often go in on weekends and holidays, and prep during the summer, but ask your friends in the private sector, I’m sure they don’t get the time off you do. Also, I’ve seen the breakdown of teacher salaries into $/hour. It’s low, but we’re not alone. My husband is active-duty infantry in the army; you want to compare little pay per hour spent at the job? It’s no contest, he wins. Or rather–he loses.

2. Have you done your due diligence? Outdated supplies and grotesque conditions in schools are understandably frustrating and should be fixed. But are administrators always making the right decisions? I worked at a high school of 1,100 students with a principal and three assistant principals — three! Their combined salaries were almost $500,000. In another district, schools hadn’t seen updates in years, but administrators were able to get brand new tablets. Is this the wisest use of district funds?

According to the Auditor General Report in Arizona, “…between fiscal years 2004 and 2016, the percentage of resources spent on instruction declined…. At the same time, the percentages spent on administration, plant operations, food service, transportation, student support, and instruction support have all increased.” In this chart, you see Arizona falls below the national average for dollars going towards instruction, yet they spend the same or more in other areas. Why isn’t the money going directly to the classroom? Can every person who is protesting say, with 100-percent assurance, that their district uses every dollar wisely and there’s nothing that can be done better?

But my administrators are wonderful, they’re not the bad guys! Them — the legislature! They’re the bad guys!

This isn’t a good guy, bad guy thing. It’s about honestly assessing if any improvements can be made. So before marching off to the capital, try scrutinizing your district’s budget reports. Sure it’s not as exciting — and doesn’t make for good selfies — but give it a go.

3. Demands on teachers increase every year. This — I wholeheartedly agree with — 100 percent! New federal and state requirements, district policies, the work keeps piling up and never stops. But why? My mentor teacher said something that’s always stuck. She said when she was younger, schools were responsible to teach reading, writing, math, science, and social studies–go figure? Now add in character education, health, hygiene, sex ed, food programs, psychological services, the list never ends; for decades schools have implemented programs to fill the gaps from home and they are overstretched. Schools are failing because parents are failing. Why are we not having this conversation? Of course, quality teaching is important to student learning, but so is quality parenting. As one veteran teacher remarked, “They don’t make parents like they used to.” And that is the truth.

Teachers and schools are not miracle workers. What can they do about the student who can barely read, but falls asleep in class every day because he’s up till 10 playing video games? Or the 5th-grade boy who cusses, gets in the face and verbally threatens his teacher, and when dad gets to school, all blame goes to the 5’3″ woman. Or the girl caught blatantly cheating on a test, but still gets her birthday bash that weekend. Or the boy suspended for drawing violent pictures about teachers from school, and his mom takes him to Disneyland the next week. (Yes, you read that correctly.) This is just a smidgen in my slew of personal stories; ask anyone who’s worked with kids, they have their own. What has happened in our culture?! Let’s start that conversation! As educators, we are some of the leading experts on how a child’s home life impacts their success at school, why are we so mum about it?

Because it’s out of our control, we might offend people, there’s no easy solution.

True, true, and true, but what’s the alternative? You put all your frustration on a small group of people — point finger, blame, dehumanize, yell, and hate. Such is the pattern in our society these days.

4. Make realistic requests.

Have you read the demands of the Oklahoma Education Association? The state boosted the average teacher pay 16 percent by proposing the state’s first tax increase in 28 years. This would bump the average OK teacher salary to $51,376, slightly higher than the state’s median household income of $50,943. But this didn’t meet all their demands, so on strike they went. For nine days. What were the demands? Included in the expensive list was a cost of living increase for retirees — sooo more money for people who don’t work with kids anymore, and a $5,000 raise for school-support staff. I know it sounds nice but giving people money, just because, is not realistic. Is bus driving now a highly skilled, highly trained job? As wonderful as the crossing guard is, does she impact student achievement? Giving employees money as a thank you for being great is a privilege the private sector has, not the public sector, whose pay is funded by taxpayers.

When I taught in Washington, there was an initiative on the state ballot, and more on local ballots, to decrease class sizes. Also, that year districts were picketing and striking for more funding, specifically higher pay. Taxpayers heard, “make my job easier and pay me more money.” Pick one! In a teacher’s lounge discussion about this, one staff member snickered, “We really just want to get paid more.” And you know, I’m ok with that! Who doesn’t?! But when you are at the mercy of the taxpayers, be reasonable and realistic. I know the protesting states have seen funding cuts, years without raises, and more. Most people wouldn’t argue with some change, but be careful what you ask for, or rather what you demand. Talk to your friends in the private sector, how often have they dealt with years of stagnant pay, pay cuts, and layoffs? Can they demand a 20 percent raise and walk out of the job if they don’t get it?

5. You’re either with us or against us in the fight to fund education.

Really? So either I completely agree with your movement or I hate teachers and kids? What if I am a teacher, what if I have kids, in the public schools? Why do things have to be so polarized? This is neither fair or realistic as life is not so black and white. I know many people who appreciate teachers and don’t’ like to see schools struggle but they simply don’t want to get taxed more. They’re struggling too, your parents, the voters, they want to keep money in their paychecks like you want to see more. Both are fair. I know small business owners who, between the recession, Obamacare, and minimum wage spikes, are strapped. You can’t nickel-and-dime people because you think you have the moral high ground.

Then tax the big corporations! Remember things are not just black and white. Take my home state, Arizona. Many businesses have been relocating to AZ because of low corporate taxes, especially from their highly taxed neighbor to the West. Businesses bring jobs, growth, and money, do you want that to leave? And the “us against you” mentality isn’t reserved only for the public. In Washington, I heard stories of past strikes where teachers, who had the nerve to show up to work, had rocks thrown at their cars. Speaking of strikes…

6. A strike will hurt the people you claim to love. It’s difficult to make-up curriculum missed from an assembly let alone days of striking. Kids will lose out on learning, period. And their parents? They are left scrambling to find a place to send them. You care so much, what about a parent who has to miss work and lose pay to watch their kid? In Arizona, there was talk of graduation dates being pushed back due to the strike. Think about the implications and how this makes you look. I respect other tactics, but I don’t agree with going on strike. In the words of Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

[…a] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable.

7. Playing the martyr. I had a professor warn us not to eat lunch in the teacher’s lounge because of the negative cesspool that sucks you in like a poison. He was right; many teachers have a “woe is me” attitude. I know disrespectful students, crazy parents, and piled-up demands can suck the soul out of you … just suck it right out! But all the complaining, coupled with the chip on some’s shoulder that what they do is so important, and soo unappreciated, and they are sooo superior to their peers, who (gasp) work only for the money, irks me. I didn’t go into teaching for the praise of my peers or accolades from society; if you did, you chose the wrong profession. When I was a teacher I knew what I did mattered and that it made a difference, I knew it was unappreciated and hard, but I had my reasons for choosing it; I didn’t need a bumper sticker or t-shirt telling the world that I cared about kids and therefore was amazing for all my sacrificing. Plenty of people sacrifice for their jobs and many jobs help our communities; we’re not the only ones.

Once I was waiting for a staff meeting to start, it was the usual gripe session: unruly kids, apathetic parents, late nights for conferences, data reports, etc. Don’t get me wrong … I was right there with them. This job is taxing. But as I looked around at our library, humble but nice, the pleasant view out the windows, the tasty pot luck my wonderful principal organized, my thoughts turned to my husband. Weeks away in the hot desert for job training with almost no communication, where he slept on the ground, ate MREs, and used a wet wipe for a bath, I thought to myself, Gosh, we are such whiners. Can’t we just look at the positive, be grateful for what we have, and do our jobs. And maybe try to find joy in it.

“But I have done my job!” shouts the menopausal teacher as she bangs her fists on the desk. “I’m done looking for the positive, it’s time to show my wrath!” She’s met with a roar of applauds, cheers, likes, and shares.

Ooo-kay, you’re entitled to your feelings. So am I. Can we please stop with the self-righteous indignation? Maybe it’s just me, but when people go fishing for sympathy — or scream for it in my face — I just get annoyed.

“But it’s justified because teachers have the most important job in society!”

Mmmm…

Parents do. And they’re failing.

8. Money isn’t a magical fix. Yes, increased funds and higher teacher pay can make some difference, but it will not solve everything. Here are two articles that say increased spending improves student achievement.

And here are two that say it doesn’t.

In my ever, ever humble opinion, it’s not the answer. Families are. Education is already the number one expenditure in most states. In 2015, New York ranked first in per-pupil spending ($19,818), Utah ranked last ($6,555), yet Utah’s students consistently outperformed New York’s.

I lived in western Washington where they just love to vote themselves into higher taxes. I think they confuse taxation with charity; they’re not the same thing. The result was a very expensive place to live with average schools. The teachers I worked with were dedicated, the district had program after program to help students, yet they ran across the same problems I’ve seen elsewhere. We can give our hearts and souls to our students and make some impact, but what happens in the walls of their own homes (or doesn’t happen) has the greatest impact.

In conclusion: I understand the frustration. However, I would like to see more personal research and less bandwagon jumping, more facts and responsible spending by all, and mostly, let’s start the conversation — the campaign — to advocate for stronger families. I’ll wear those shirts every day. “Stronger families, stronger schools, stronger communities.” Or, “Where have all the fathers gone?” Or, “That device will never replace you as their parent.”

If we truly care about kids, we need to advocate for what most matters to them: safe, stable, caring, responsible families. That is the bedrock of a society.


Crossposted here.

Published in Education
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There are 27 comments.

  1. JoelB Member

    If we truly care about kids, we need to advocate for what MOST matters to them: safe, stable, caring, responsible families. That is the bedrock of a society.

    I agree with this, but advocating for strong families may be even more complex than advocating for good schools. We have a lot of cultural issues to deal with. Good post.

    • #1
    • January 17, 2020, at 6:50 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  2. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Excellent post. Very reasonable and easy to relate to. 

    • #2
    • January 17, 2020, at 7:38 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. Juliana Member

    I stay out of the teacher’s lounge at lunch, but it is almost impossible to work in a school and not hear almost constant complaints from teachers. Most work very hard, and many are working harder than the students. Some have been burnt out for years and are just running out the clock for the retirement benefits. For the most part, teachers have been in schools since kindergarten – with little working knowledge of the way the world operates outside of the educational environment. They have a sense of entitlement that goes beyond what one would experience in other workplaces.

    And yes, parents are very different. We have seen a drastic change in the demeanor of students just in the last five to ten years which can most likely be traced back to inadequate parenting. But these are societal issues that are not being acknowledged, and teachers are expected to fill in the gaps as surrogate parents, ‘life coaches’, and mental health workers. This is something rarely, if ever, expected in any other profession.

    Teachers are often evaluated based on whether the student succeeds. Reasonable enough, one would say. Based on what we are seeing in our school, about 85% of students would succeed (pass their classes and graduate) regardless of which teacher is in the classroom. But for the 15% of students who are not interested in education, the demand is not for the student to ‘get with the program’ but for the teacher to somehow turn around years of apathy and defiance in a few semesters. For example, the student literally does no work for class – no in-class assignments, no homework, earns few points on tests or quizzes when they deign to put anything on the paper at all. Yet the question from admin to the teacher is, “This child is failing. What are you going to do about it?”

    I am not a teacher. ( I am a school psychologist – which means I do assessments for special education services.) As much as I sympathize with the difficulty of the job due to the demands placed on them, the more vocal teachers do their profession a disservice by pretending it’s all about the kids, when in fact it’s all about them.

    • #3
    • January 17, 2020, at 10:21 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  4. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    In Washington State, it is illegal for teachers to strike. Yet they do so regularly, with no consequences. The only ones with the consequences are the students, who miss every strike day of instruction. First, the teachers who strike need to pay the price, in fines for missing work, and perhaps a minor misdemeanor charge. And the Union should pay huge daily fines also, since it is they who actually go on strike.

    • #4
    • January 17, 2020, at 11:28 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator

    Juliana (View Comment):
    For the most part, teachers have been in schools since kindergarten – with little working knowledge of the way the world operates outside of the educational environment.

    I think this is the biggest thing. I have two aunts, two uncles, three cousins, and a sister, in addition to several friends, who were or are teachers. Most went straight from being a student to being a teacher, with their only other work experience being entry level retail or food service, if that. They seem to have no clue about how ubiquitous the things they complain about are.

    • “But I have to take continuing education over my summers!” My husband is a cook — and he has to take continuing education to keep his certifications. And he doesn’t necessarily have paid time off to do it.
    • “But I have to take work home for nights and weekends.” So does everyone who is salaried. That’s why they pay you a salary instead of an hourly wage. As they told my husband in his culinary program, “Never ever EVER calculate what your salary is paying you per hour.” At one point, he made less than he did as a dishwasher while being a salaried manager.
    • “But I have to pay for my health insurance.” This one really blows my mind, but I’ve heard it, as if no one else in the economy has to do this too. 

    Then there’s the perks that they don’t recognize, like snow days. The rest of us have to brave the roads or burn a vacation day. Or how they can retire at younger ages, sometimes so young that they can then move to another district and work long enough to collect a second pension. This happens where I’m from, because one state lets you retire after 30 years service, while the other lets you retire when your age and years of service add up to 70. Thus, one can “retire” at 52, move across the state line, work another 10 years, and still retire earlier than most but with two pensions.

    Most irritatingly from my perspective, is how lazy and ignorant some of them are. The elementary school teacher admits that if she wasn’t teaching fifth grade math, she wouldn’t know how to do it. The high school English teacher says she doesn’t need to teach the students spelling because they have spellcheck. The high school history teacher doesn’t require correct grammar from her students because it’s not her job. Even as a kid, I was appalled by the number of my teachers who freely bragged that they didn’t know any more math than was required for the grade book. (I even caught one out deliberately lying to me about my grade average when she was pressuring me to drop her class. I was able to mathematically prove that her reported average for me wasn’t correct, based on her own reporting of my individual grades.)

    Finally, on the question of remuneration, economics gives us a very good metric to determine whether teachers are getting paid enough — are there enough people applying for open teacher positions? At least where I’m from, every job opening would get a hundred applicants. That would suggest that if anything, the job pays better than it has to.* Of course, my observation has been that teachers aren’t required to take any economics courses, so one shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t really understand this.

    * To quote one of my favorite authors: “The money in the chorus isn’t very good, is it?!” she said. “No.” It was less than you’d get for scrubbing floors. The reason was that, when you advertised a dirty floor, hundreds of hopefuls didn’t turn up.

    • #5
    • January 18, 2020, at 6:21 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  6. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    When a teacher looks out at their class of 25 students, do they see $350,000 of tax payer support? ($14K*25) Do teachers wonder why their pay is just 1/7th of the tax money an wonder about the other 6/7? Maybe they wonder a little, but the union line is that tax payers and school choice is the problem. So the fight always turns to tax payers vs. teachers, where 6/7ths of the benefit goes to someone that is not a teacher. I think we can do better, but reform within the system is nearly impossible.

    • #6
    • January 18, 2020, at 7:18 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  7. Stad Thatcher

    Juliana (View Comment):
    And yes, parents are very different. We have seen a drastic change in the demeanor of students just in the last five to ten years which can most likely be traced back to inadequate parenting.

    Our kids went to parochial school from K-8th grade. After a couple of years, my wife asked one of the teachers what was different about the students because almost all were doing well. She replied, “It isn’t the students, it’s the parents.”

    • #7
    • January 18, 2020, at 7:20 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  8. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Back when Pete Wilson was Governor of California, there was a big flurry about class size. As a result, the Legislature decided to fund more teachers and teachers were recruited. The only requirement for a new teacher, aside from the usual college requirements, was that they take a literacy exam called “CBEST.” There was a great outcry from minority candidates that this was discriminatory and an attempt to keep teachers “white.”

    My ex-wife had been laid off in a bank merger about that time. She had been a VP of a large bank. She had a lifetime teaching credential from her days when we were married and she taught elementary school in East LA, a minority area full of blacks and Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal. It was near the medical school I attended. Anyway, she decided to apply as a long term sub while she looked for another banking job. She told me the CBEST was an 8th grade level math and English test.

    She was hired and taught in a school in an eastern suburb of LA that was middle to lower middle class. She was appalled at the changes since she had last taught. It was 20 years since her last experience and the changes were depressing. Of course, now all teachers were union members, not the case when she had been a teacher. She found that the teachers had little interest in the kids and often would make fun of them in the teachers’ room. She was teaching 3rd grade and one day she complimented the 2nd grade teacher on how well she had done preparing her class for reading. The woman burst into tears. No one had ever complimented her on her work.

    After about 6 months she got a good job with the Resolution Trust Corp and left. The principal tried to convince her to stay, telling her she was his best teacher. This after a 20 year gap in her experience. He lived in the same area of LA and she would see him in the market sometimes. He would always stop and chat. She had always been a big public school advocate. After our divorce, I sent the kids to private schools. After her stint as a teacher again, she agreed she would never send a kid to public school.

    • #8
    • January 18, 2020, at 8:04 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  9. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    JoelB (View Comment):

    If we truly care about kids, we need to advocate for what MOST matters to them: safe, stable, caring, responsible families. That is the bedrock of a society.

    I agree with this, but advocating for strong families may be even more complex than advocating for good schools. We have a lot of cultural issues to deal with. Good post.

    Joel, good comment, but I’m not sure that the problem is complexity.

    The “cultural issues” that created this problem are departures from traditional sexual morality. This is not a new thing having to do with homosexuality or trans, though these are problems. This goes back to the 60s, with the complete breakdown of traditional norms regarding sex and marriage among heterosexuals.

    This is quite easy to understand. It is not easy to fix, but not because of complexity. It is difficult to fix because the vast majority of the population is deeply committed to the current rules — probably 90% of the Left and probably a good 50% of the Right, including 50% of those here at Ricochet.

    I don’t want to accuse them of not caring about the consequences, which fall disproportionately on the children. I think that many of them do care, but are unwilling to change their position, often out of a commitment to what they view as “liberty.”

    • #9
    • January 18, 2020, at 8:50 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Ajalon J. Stapley: Why do things have to be so polarized, this is neither fair or realistic as life is not so black and white. I know many people who appreciate teachers and don’t’ like to see schools struggle, they simply don’t want to get taxed more. They’re struggling too, your parents, the voters, they want to keep money in their paychecks like you want to see more. Both are fair. I know small business owners who, between The Recession, Obamacare, and minimum wage spikes, are strapped. You can’t nickel and dime people because you think you have the moral high ground.

    As part of a large arts organization (think community symphony or something similar) in a major metropolitan area, I get acquainted with fellow musicians, many of whom are also public school teachers. This metropolitan area is notorious for teacher’s strikes.

    I worked in these schools a while back doing extracurricular enrichment, during which time it became clear to me that, while the teaching staff may have its share of jackwagons, the administrative side’s concentration of jackwagonage is at least as high, and teachers often get into really stupid turf wars with the admins, amounting to, a good teacher wants to actually teach something, but the admins won’t allow it. Even when the teacher volunteers to personally take on all the burden of coordinating all student schedules and paying for supplies out of pocket, it’s still routine for it to be disallowed.

    Doubtless many teachers themselves don’t have time to get into the weeds of union rules and the union contract with the city, meaning it’s possible the teachers themselves have just been fed a line by their union bosses, but when I asked the teachers I know, they told me their contract with the city forbids any union action that does not ask for more money. Several of them said, they’d rather have the admins off their case than get more dough, but their official ask has to be for the $$$, with any deal brokered involving the administrators becoming less tyrannical being the admins’ proposition.

    If this is true, the teacher’s union can’t not ask for more funds, and the admins only have to relinquish power when it’s the admins’ idea (a rough estimation of when might be “never”). No sympathy for the union is necessary to conclude the ever-ratcheting insanity in such a system might not be wholly the union’s fault.

    • #10
    • January 18, 2020, at 8:52 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  11. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    In Washington State, it is illegal for teachers to strike. Yet they do so regularly, with no consequences. The only ones with the consequences are the students, who miss every strike day of instruction. First, the teachers who strike need to pay the price, in fines for missing work, and perhaps a minor misdemeanor charge. And the Union should pay huge daily fines also, since it is they who actually go on strike.

    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker (View Comment):
    Finally, on the question of remuneration, economics gives us a very good metric to determine whether teachers are getting paid enough — are there enough people applying for open teacher positions? At least where I’m from, every job opening would get a hundred applicants. That would suggest that if anything, the job pays better than it has to.* Of course, my observation has been that teachers aren’t required to take any economics courses, so one shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t really understand this.

    I think that these are excellent points.

    A free market system would probably solve most of this problem, but this would probably require the adoption of a charter school model. The existence of fairly large public school districts does distort the teaching market in many localities. The technical economic term is “monopsony,” a market distortion in which there is only a single buyer. Monopsony is the other side of monopoly, in which there is only a single buyer.

    Of course, there is rarely a pure monopsony (or monopoly), but in practice, a single dominant buyer has substantial market power, resulting in market distortion. The market distortion of monopsony is a lower level of both price and quantity — in the case of teachers, fewer teachers are employed and the wage is lower.

    The economics of teaching are a bit tricky, because it is quite disruptive to change teachers in the middle of a school year. Thus, teachers generally enter into 1-year contracts (at least as I understand it). This makes it very improper to go on strike, in my view.

    I would get some satisfaction from witnessing a lawsuit by a school against striking teachers, for breach of contract, perhaps joined by the students (as third-party beneficiaries of the contract). If the union was a party to the contract, it would be sued as well; if not, it could be sued for tortious interference with contractual relations. (I suspect that actual union contracts have provisions that would waive such claims in the event of a strike.)

    • #11
    • January 18, 2020, at 9:01 AM PST
    • 1 like
  12. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    A free market system would probably solve most of this problem, but this would probably require the adoption of a charter school model.

    My grandchildren are now in charter schools. I can no longer afford to send them to private schools where tuition has skyrocketed and my income declined. My grandson’s 4th grade public school teacher told his mother she could not do the math problems using Common Core methods. She suggested his mother teach him using traditional methods.

    When my children went to private schools 25 years ago, some of the teachers were fully credentialed and accepted lower salaries to teach in this school. Public schools are moving toward a chaotic existence.

    • #12
    • January 18, 2020, at 9:11 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    The Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Initiative is sponsoring classical charter schools all over the country. They are hurting for administrators and teachers, and they can’t find them fast enough. There is a link on the Hillsdale Web site (Hillsdale.edu) for anyone interested.

    • #13
    • January 18, 2020, at 10:48 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. I Walton Member

    Take a look at New Zealand education before, when it was top down bureaucratic, expensive and lousy, the worst in the West, and after all the bureaucrats were removed and teachers and parents ran each school independently from each other and costs dropped and it became among the best. Lousy teachers were fired by the other teachers and parents because they cost students. Top down is necessary in national defense, although they train as objective oriented focused small units, but what works everywhere else is bottom up and competition.

    • #14
    • January 18, 2020, at 3:29 PM PST
    • 1 like
  15. Ajalon J. Stapley Coolidge
    Ajalon J. Stapley

    JoelB (View Comment):

    If we truly care about kids, we need to advocate for what MOST matters to them: safe, stable, caring, responsible families. That is the bedrock of a society.

    I agree with this, but advocating for strong families may be even more complex than advocating for good schools. We have a lot of cultural issues to deal with. Good post.

    @joelb, thank you. Sadly we live in a time when even more rigorous government regulations in schools to help kids is more possible than us as a society strengthening families ourselves…but we need to at least have the conversation. We don’t.

    • #15
    • January 18, 2020, at 4:34 PM PST
    • 1 like
  16. Ajalon J. Stapley Coolidge
    Ajalon J. Stapley

    Juliana (View Comment):

    I stay out of the teacher’s lounge at lunch, but it is almost impossible to work in a school and not hear almost constant complaints from teachers. Most work very hard, and many are working harder than the students. Some have been burnt out for years and are just running out the clock for the retirement benefits. For the most part, teachers have been in schools since kindergarten – with little working knowledge of the way the world operates outside of the educational environment. They have a sense of entitlement that goes beyond what one would experience in other workplaces.

    And yes, parents are very different. We have seen a drastic change in the demeanor of students just in the last five to ten years which can most likely be traced back to inadequate parenting. But these are societal issues that are not being acknowledged, and teachers are expected to fill in the gaps as surrogate parents, ‘life coaches’, and mental health workers. This is something rarely, if ever, expected in any other profession.

    Teachers are often evaluated based on whether the student succeeds. Reasonable enough, one would say. Based on what we are seeing in our school, about 85% of students would succeed (pass their classes and graduate) regardless of which teacher is in the classroom. But for the 15% of students who are not interested in education, the demand is not for the student to ‘get with the program’ but for the teacher to somehow turn around years of apathy and defiance in a few semesters. For example, the student literally does no work for class – no in-class assignments, no homework, earns few points on tests or quizzes when they deign to put anything on the paper at all. Yet the question from admin to the teacher is, “This child is failing. What are you going to do about it?”

    I am not a teacher. ( I am a school psychologist – which means I do assessments for special education services.) As much as I sympathize with the difficulty of the job due to the demands placed on them, the more vocal teachers do their profession a disservice by pretending it’s all about the kids, when in fact it’s all about them.

    Oh @juliana, I feel for ya. I do. All of that sounds so familiar and is true. Teachers are not miracle workers, and we all gripe about parents, I would love for us to bring this issue to national attention. I was impressed at how quickly and powerfully Red for Ed gained steam (and I understand a lot of it was political, unions, yati yata). But I would love for educators to start the campaign for stronger families, I get frustrated that they take all their frustration out on the people funding them. Also administrators need to have some gumption and discipline kids in ways that are effective. 

    • #16
    • January 18, 2020, at 4:39 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. Ajalon J. Stapley Coolidge
    Ajalon J. Stapley

    Stad (View Comment):

    Juliana (View Comment):
    And yes, parents are very different. We have seen a drastic change in the demeanor of students just in the last five to ten years which can most likely be traced back to inadequate parenting.

    Our kids went to parochial school from K-8th grade. After a couple of years, my wife asked one of the teachers what was different about the students because almost all were doing well. She replied, “It isn’t the students, it’s the parents.”

    @stad amen!

    • #17
    • January 18, 2020, at 4:48 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. Ajalon J. Stapley Coolidge
    Ajalon J. Stapley

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    If we truly care about kids, we need to advocate for what MOST matters to them: safe, stable, caring, responsible families. That is the bedrock of a society.

    I agree with this, but advocating for strong families may be even more complex than advocating for good schools. We have a lot of cultural issues to deal with. Good post.

    Joel, good comment, but I’m not sure that the problem is complexity.

    The “cultural issues” that created this problem are departures from traditional sexual morality. This is not a new thing having to do with homosexuality or trans, though these are problems. This goes back to the 60s, with the complete breakdown of traditional norms regarding sex and marriage among heterosexuals.

    This is quite easy to understand. It is not easy to fix, but not because of complexity. It is difficult to fix because the vast majority of the population is deeply committed to the current rules — probably 90% of the Left and probably a good 50% of the Right, including 50% of those here at Ricochet.

    I don’t want to accuse them of not caring about the consequences, which fall disproportionately on the children. I think that many of them do care, but are unwilling to change their position, often out of a commitment to what they view as “liberty.”

    I gotta go with @arizonapatriot on this. It is actually a very simple explanation, but wildly unpopular, and seen as even more wildly out of date. When sex (which—wait for it—can create children) is had out of the context of a loving and committed relationship, ideally marriage, kids usually get the short end of the stick. I think this was the start. I do think there are other issues, like parents replacing time with material goods, etc. Easy explanation, difficult to change because of perceptions. 

    • #18
    • January 18, 2020, at 4:58 PM PST
    • 1 like
  19. ShaunaHunt Coolidge

    My husband taught public school for eighteen years. For reasons beyond his control, he’s not teaching right now. Your OP was perfect! Thank you!

    • #19
    • January 18, 2020, at 7:15 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. Tex929rr Coolidge

    I taught at a small town high school for 16 years after my military and then corporate experiences (I was 39 when I started). I share many of the same experiences as you; I’ve often wanted to sit down and chronicle all the things I saw. The last few years I have been on the school board. I ran with another retired teacher/counselor and we have managed to get a surprising amount done in three years, but it’s tough going. We serve a community of a could of hundred square miles with 1300 total students, K-12.

    If I could identify one thing (and there were many) that was completely unexpected by me about late 20th (now early 21st) century public education, it’s the pernicious effect of special education and 504 programs. There are kids with a variety of learning shortcomings that need help, but this has become an industry. It’s well deserving of its own conversation. Second to this was parental behavior. I had no idea how many parents have baggage about their school years and can’t put it behind them. And apparently it’s de rigueur to aggressively defend your child from any consequences, no matter what they might have done.

    We have 5 principals and assistant principals between our three schools, and two administrators (superintendent and curriculum director) at our central office.

    • #20
    • January 19, 2020, at 6:59 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. Juliana Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I would get some satisfaction from witnessing a lawsuit by a school against striking teachers, for breach of contract, perhaps joined by the students (as third-party beneficiaries of the contract). If the union was a party to the contract, it would be sued as well; if not, it could be sued for tortious interference with contractual relations. (I suspect that actual union contracts have provisions that would waive such claims in the event of a strike.)

    Unions generally strike when there is no contract, or no progress being made on a new contract – for our district, that is every two years. For our organization, it is a two-way street. The union will not support teachers who do not follow the contractual rules (for example not working a full eight hours or abusing time off) , and they will take admin to task when the contract is not being followed (teachers who don’t get a duty free lunch, for example). That’s why contract negotiators and contract language need to be so specific. I have asked about longer term contracts, so we are not messing around with this every other year, but I was told that the state legislature determines how much money the school districts will get from the state with their biennial budget. Our negotiators want to see what is reasonable to ask for because if the district gets more money than expected, it’s not like they are going to spread the wealth to the teachers on their own. 

    Also, any strike is preceded by pre-strike actions. The first one is generally work to rule – you work your eight hours and no more. You do not participate in volunteer committees, or anything for which you are not being paid. In conjunction with that is usually buttons and shirts that teachers wear identifying union support. Teachers sign up to go to board meetings to speak at the public forum. We have not had to actually strike in the time I’ve been there (13 years) because it is bad publicity, and based on surveys the district undertakes every year, the teachers have very strong support from the community. Now, this is a fairly small community (five elementary schools, two middle, one high school). I couldn’t imagine the union and district chaos and corruption in a larger community such as Chicago, New York, or even Minneapolis or St Paul.

    • #21
    • January 19, 2020, at 8:58 AM PST
    • Like
  22. Tex929rr Coolidge

    Collective bargaining is actually illegal for Texas teachers, but in the big city districts the “professional associations” act just like unions.

    • #22
    • January 19, 2020, at 9:19 AM PST
    • 1 like
  23. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker (View Comment):
    Finally, on the question of remuneration, economics gives us a very good metric to determine whether teachers are getting paid enough — are there enough people applying for open teacher positions?

    This gets to one of my peeves. Why are elementary teachers going to big universities and incurring big students loans? Lyndon Johnson graduated from a tiny teachers’ college in Texas. Thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of teachers had teachers’ college educations that were free or of small expense. I can see a high school teacher wanting a math degree or a science degree, or although very few get them. Why are Departments of Education so dysfunctional? A registered nurse can get an AA degree from a junior college, spend a period of on-the-job learning in a hospital, and carry on on a career that has at least as much responsibility as a profession.

    • #23
    • January 19, 2020, at 12:14 PM PST
    • 1 like
  24. JoelB Member

    Ajalon J. Stapley (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    If we truly care about kids, we need to advocate for what MOST matters to them: safe, stable, caring, responsible families. That is the bedrock of a society.

    I agree with this, but advocating for strong families may be even more complex than advocating for good schools. We have a lot of cultural issues to deal with. Good post.

    Joel, good comment, but I’m not sure that the problem is complexity.

    The “cultural issues” that created this problem are departures from traditional sexual morality. This is not a new thing having to do with homosexuality or trans, though these are problems. This goes back to the 60s, with the complete breakdown of traditional norms regarding sex and marriage among heterosexuals.

    This is quite easy to understand. It is not easy to fix, but not because of complexity. It is difficult to fix because the vast majority of the population is deeply committed to the current rules — probably 90% of the Left and probably a good 50% of the Right, including 50% of those here at Ricochet.

    I don’t want to accuse them of not caring about the consequences, which fall disproportionately on the children. I think that many of them do care, but are unwilling to change their position, often out of a commitment to what they view as “liberty.”

    I gotta go with @arizonapatriot on this. It is actually a very simple explanation, but wildly unpopular, and seen as even more wildly out of date. When sex (which—wait for it—can create children) is had out of the context of a loving and committed relationship, ideally marriage, kids usually get the short end of the stick. I think this was the start. I do think there are other issues, like parents replacing time with material goods, etc. Easy explanation, difficult to change because of perceptions.

    I agree with both comments above. I suppose I used “complexity” as a euphemism for the difficulty that one would have trying to bring out the real issues in today’s culture. PC is part of the problem. So is government. No it’s not rocket science, but being in the “Resistance” ( nod to @susanquinn) can lead to uh.. “complications” where some people are concerned.

    • #24
    • January 19, 2020, at 3:28 PM PST
    • 1 like
  25. CACrabtree Coolidge

    Great post. I’m not a teacher but I do have teachers in my family so I sympathize with their problems. Although I’m a resident of Ohio, I did follow the situations in neighboring West Viginia and Kentucky. It seemed to me that sympathy for the teachers notably dropped after visits by the all-purpose activist Randi Weingarten. When folks like her get involved, the real issues can get clouded very quickly.

    • #25
    • January 20, 2020, at 9:54 AM PST
    • Like
  26. Ajalon J. Stapley Coolidge
    Ajalon J. Stapley

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Great post. I’m not a teacher but I do have teachers in my family so I sympathize with their problems. Although I’m a resident of Ohio, I did follow the situations in neighboring West Viginia and Kentucky. It seemed to me that sympathy for the teachers notably dropped after visits by the all-purpose activist Randi Weingarten. When folks like her get involved, the real issues can get clouded very quickly.

    Thanks @cacrabtree. Something similar happened in AZ. The movement had a lot of partisan support from voters, then at a rally the state union endorsed a very left leaning candidate for governor…more folks should have woken up after this than did. 

    • #26
    • January 20, 2020, at 12:39 PM PST
    • Like
  27. Chris Member

    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker (View Comment):

    Juliana (View Comment):
    For the most part, teachers have been in schools since kindergarten – with little working knowledge of the way the world operates outside of the educational environment.

    I think this is the biggest thing. I have two aunts, two uncles, three cousins, and a sister, in addition to several friends, who were or are teachers. Most went straight from being a student to being a teacher, with their only other work experience being entry level retail or food service, if that. They seem to have no clue about how ubiquitous the things they complain about are.

    • “But I have to take continuing education over my summers!” My husband is a cook — and he has to take continuing education to keep his certifications. And he doesn’t necessarily have paid time off to do it.
    • “But I have to take work home for nights and weekends.” So does everyone who is salaried. That’s why they pay you a salary instead of an hourly wage. As they told my husband in his culinary program, “Never ever EVER calculate what your salary is paying you per hour.” At one point, he made less than he did as a dishwasher while being a salaried manager.
    • “But I have to pay for my health insurance.” This one really blows my mind, but I’ve heard it, as if no one else in the economy has to do this too.

    Then there’s the perks that they don’t recognize, like snow days. The rest of us have to brave the roads or burn a vacation day. Or how they can retire at younger ages, sometimes so young that they can then move to another district and work long enough to collect a second pension. This happens where I’m from, because one state lets you retire after 30 years service, while the other lets you retire when your age and years of service add up to 70. Thus, one can “retire” at 52, move across the state line, work another 10 years, and still retire earlier than most but with two pensions.

    Finally, on the question of remuneration, economics gives us a very good metric to determine whether teachers are getting paid enough — are there enough people applying for open teacher positions? At least where I’m from, every job opening would get a hundred applicants. That would suggest that if anything, the job pays better than it has to.* Of course, my observation has been that teachers aren’t required to take any economics courses, so one shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t really understand this.

    * To quote one of my favorite authors: “The money in the chorus isn’t very good, is it?!” she said. “No.” It was less than you’d get for scrubbing floors. The reason was that, when you advertised a dirty floor, hundreds of hopefuls didn’t turn up.

    Jimmy Buffett and Gene Simmons have both given interviews where they freely admit they often meet people who are far finer musicians than they are, but don’t succeed in “the music business”. These people, though “called” to music, don’t realize that in addition to musical talent there is “the business” of providing the kind of musical experience that people want.

    Further to your points above, teachers, unfortunately, often don’t realize they are “in the business” of teaching. Instead, their lack of other experiences, combined with the emotional framing of “the call” to teaching and the ubiquitous “public servant” language creates an illusion of sacrifice. Like many other “public servants”, they feel they have forgone higher wages to “be of service” and thus deserve perks (healthcare, guaranteed pensions, etc) as equalizers while not realizing they outsize the private sector. Instead, human nature being what it is, seeing other people’s material situation breeds a call for higher pay – from kindergarten to 12th grade a typical parent will often hear teachers compare the parking lot vs the teacher’s lot. That car “we deserve” isn’t going to pay for itself.

     

    • #27
    • January 20, 2020, at 2:51 PM PST
    • 1 like