Comments: The Union Label...

Wow, great article. How about abolishing the old 9 month school year? How many of our students still have to harvest crops in the summer?

Posted by Silence Dogood at March 11, 2005 5:58 PM

What -- force teachers to get by on only six weeks vacation?

Glad you liked it, it blew me away. One small detail that captured me was the call to end the incestuous certification of teachers. I have a few friends who would like to teach, would be good, and would be able to live on the current salary structure. Two have taught in other states; all have college degrees. Yet none of them want to spend two years becoming "re-certified" in Colorado.

And the segment on using technology to handle larger class sizes. If we *have* to have a Dept. of Education, can we at least get this guy to run it?

Posted by jk at March 11, 2005 7:14 PM

In response to Silence: "More than you think Mister urbanite." Two summers ago I met three young adults from Kansas, two boys and a girl, who travel the western plains with the father of one of them earning a living as custom grain harvesters. (I missed them last summer for some reason. I think I was out of town when they harvested my neighbor's field.)

On top of that, those of us who grew up in climates that have a cold season to go along with the warm summer would have staged a popular revolution if forced to attend school in June and July. Shame on you! ;)

Posted by johngalt at March 12, 2005 10:37 AM

What about the highly skilled professionals who go into the profession for the right reason (the OUTcome rather than the INcome)? I am a 23 year old teacher who has been in the work force for 2 years teaching a special needs class. I am deemed "highly qualified" according to state law and am dual certified in two states...not to mention, I have spent countless hours taking and passing 8 different tests for certification. The article did a good job making teachers look like we are motivated by the amount of money we make. True teachers know what they are getting into when they go into the field. We know it is not a high-paying job, we know it is going to be tough, we know our own teaching philosophies are going to have to take second seat to school budgets and state law, but more importantly, we know why we continue teaching...the children. Someone once asked me (on an interview actually) why I wanted to teach. I didn't say "because I like kids" or "because I want to help people". I simply replied, "It is my calling." True teachers, empty wallets and all, have a gift. I chose to use my gift to benefit students with special needs. My reward at the end of the day is not whether my prescription gets paid for, or whether I can visit a specialist with only $10.00 in my pocket. It is not being able to pay my rent on time or have a few extra dollars to get take-out. My reward is seeing one of my students succeed in something. I do agree with the article when it states that more people would be attracted to the profession if it paid better. However, it would not attract the right teachers; those who we may not want our own children to have as a teacher...those who are motivated by the income instead of the outcome.

Posted by A.M. at March 13, 2005 4:26 PM

Just one more thing...in case any of you were wondering. My $42.00 prescription is not included in my health insurance. My co-pay is sometimes more than $10.00, and my rent is not always on time.

Posted by A.M. at March 13, 2005 4:32 PM

AM:

Thanks for the comment.

I think it is great that you have found your calling and that you work in an important field and that it gives you satisfaction.

I make the assumption that you are a very good teacher -- why shouldn't you make good money? Would you rather manage a little larger class and get paid more and have access to better equipment?

I am also curious whether you feel the certifications you have worked so hard for are valuable or "just something you have to do."

Many of my relatives are teachers and I have nothing but respect for you and them. I just feel that the good teachers could have a better satisfaction without the union involvement.

Posted by jk at March 14, 2005 1:52 PM

JK,

First off, thank you for the positive comments.

To be honest with you, in my field of working with students with special needs, I think smaller class sizes are more beneficial. With a class of 4-6 students I am able to direct my attention to the students that need it most. I am happy with my small class. To better prove my point, let me share a personal experience with you (and others who read this). When I was student teaching, I was assigned to a special education class in Philadelphia. The class had one teacher, no assistants, and 11-16 students at a time in grades K through 3. Let's assume that the teacher got paid a salary of 35,000 per year. One may think that is too little for a class as challenging as that. However, if the class size was cut in half, the salary would be well worth it. The teacher would be able to teach each individual student better and really hone in on the children's specific needs. With large classes, general ed or special, students often slip through the cracks.

In response to my certifications, I do not feel they were something I "had" to do. Pennsylvania is one of the most difficult states in which to obtain certification, with 6 or more tests to pass. New Jersey only requires one test for general ed., and no test for special ed. Besides having the certifications make my resume look good, I feel that they have not only boosted MY pride and confidence, but also that of my district for having hired me.

I hope this has answered some of your questions.

-AM

Posted by AM at March 14, 2005 8:10 PM

True teachers do have a gift, but I see their empty wallets as an effect, not a cause. Must a teacher suffer for their craft, and is this a prerequisite for being a good teacher? Private industry has thrived on the concept that compensation is a motivating factor, not a bribe to sell out. I worry that we cannot continue to fill our schools with teachers motivated by a calling. The level of education and expertise required to be a teacher, to say nothing of the importance of the work should command a better salary.

But then again, the growth in salaries in industry for the past few decades has been mostly due to increased productivity, a rather technical way to say doing more work with fewer people. The law of economics would indicate that teaching needs to see the same productivity increase to see the same salary increase. Harsh, but reality. I certainly do not have all the answers, or perhaps even any good ones, but what about using some of the methods of industry? Utilize technology - teleconference a language arts teacher for example into many classrooms simultaneously. Yes, something is lost without the human touch but which is better, a dynamic energetic teacher on video or bored downtrodden one in person? Use double shifts - half the class size for 5 intensive hours a day and each teacher teaches two 5 hour shifts to get the same number of students through the class. Outsource - take some of the drudgery of paper grading and assign it to part time assistants - stay at home parents with some ability and aptitude perhaps? Then meet with those assistants to communicate pupil progress. I suspect most teachers can assess a student's performance and identify areas for improvement without slogging through grading each and every assignment.

I wish basically AM that we could provide you more than just our gratitude. Being paid well for your work does not diminish its importance.

Posted by Silence Dogood at March 15, 2005 2:05 PM

Silence,

You sound like a very educated person in the field of economics. I am curious...where did you get all this knowledge about the economy and industry? Where do your solution theories come from? Was all this from a dynamic energetic teacher or a downtrodden one? How many kids were in the class?

I would like to address your idea of having the assistants take home paperwork and do the grading. That may work, IF the only method of measuring students' successes were from pencil and paper tests and papers (and even with those, teachers have their own way of evaluating). Teachers take advantage of the many methods of assessment. When they assess their own students, they are better able to pinpoint the area of difficulty and help fix the problem. It would be like standing in a courtroom for six hours presenting your case to a judge, but having the stenographer decide if you are guilty or not guilty. One more question for you...what economic theory states that one should get paid more for doing less work?

With regards to your idea of teleconferencing classrooms instead of having a live teacher, I would like to know what you would do with students with behavior problems. Hire a babysitter to sit there? Let me share my knowledge with you about elementary education philosophies. If you look at the developmental theories of psychologists in the field, you will find that at the elementary level students are motivated by pleasing others. They thrive on getting personal attention and creating positive relationships with their role models. They search for approval from adults, thus developing their self esteem, and later, their character and personality.

Five intensive hours a day? I assume you mean one hour for each subject...reading, math, science, social studies...and one for lunch? Where does character education fit in? Social development? Creative writing? Library? Computer class? Recess? Physical education? Art? Music? Are you thinking kids should go to school for 10 hours a day to fit it all in? Should kids start adopting early the 10-12 hour work day like parents often do? Have you thought about attention span? ADD or not, it is difficult for kids to be productive for more than an hour without some kind of break...snack, lunch, recess, choice-time, sustained silent reading, etc.

What's your next outlandish idea..paying teachers commission according to the letter grades students get on tests??? Before you say that is a good idea, consider students with special needs in regular ed classrooms that do not test well or students who are just bright enough to figure out that if they fail a test from a teacher they dislike, they can really screw her/him over with their paycheck...

Do more research in education rather than economics. Maybe that will change your solution ideas...

AM

Posted by AM at March 17, 2005 8:14 PM