By Norma Adams-Wade
Yes, grammar and pronunciation are wrong. Please ignore them.
But let’s do talk about teachers during this holiday season.
Why are teachers paid so poorly?
Ignored by legislators?
And treated as though they are second-class citizens?
During the Christmas, New Year’s, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa season, may we turn our attention to teachers and consider how to make life better for them in the coming year?
For starters, here are some target priorities: higher pay, more respect, improved working conditions, better sched- uling, better retirement plans, safer and more disciplined classrooms, reduce pressure to “teach to the test,” and more support from parents and community.
Reading some national reports recently about what teachers endure day-to-day was heart-wrenching. One blog drew tons of web comments from teachers sharing their personal career horror stories.
Such reports hit hard enough to make you want to rally – or bribe – lawmakers to seriously advocate for the nation’s rough- ly 3.5 million teachers. More teacher-friendly laws would demonstrate that parents and citizens realize and appreciate the valuable impacts that teachers have and have had on all our lives
Here are just a few revealing facts from national sources:
- Within the last five years, a beginning teacher’s average starting salary has been $36,141 and the average overall salary has been $56,383. Receiving no adjustments for inflation, the latter number has actually decreased since the 1999-2000 school year – meaning teachers have received no raises in 15 years. [U.S. News & World Report.]
- United States teachers make about 20 percent less than other professionals with similar education and experience….and…. about 20 percent resort to second and third jobs. [www.cnbc.com]
- Elaine Hutchinson, Oklahoma’s 2013 Teacher of the Year, has taught about 25 years and earned about $45,000 annually when she was featured by Time Magazine in 2018. She said she makes half of what her siblings make – an attorney, engineer and phys- ical therapist. She said of her engineer brother: “His bonus is more than my salary.” [Time Magazine]
- Teachers are only qualified for pensions after teaching for 25 years; only one-fourth reach that point; and because of inflation and receiving no cost-of-living raises, teachers earn 15 percent less than in 1999. [www.howigotjob.com] Also, teachers must live in the same state in order to collect their pension. [Time Magazine]
- Teachers have learned to live with the long-standing fact that they must pay for their own classroom supplies – a burden on their always meager salaries. Additionally, they are constantly asked to donate money and food items to help poor students and their families and to con- tribute to school hospitality coffers that fund staff parties and help co-workers bat- tling health issues and family emergencies. [blog www.toughnickel.com]
- Teachers often have to wait two, three or more hours to use the bathroom because they cannot step out while classes are in session….and… staff members far outnumber available faculty restrooms, so teachers often reluctant- ly have to use student restrooms…and…in student restrooms, teachers often end up having to stop some unsavory student behavior, which uses up teacher’s precious toilet break time. [blog wwwtoughnickel.com]
- The public-school work environment can be very challenging, sometimes dangerous. In her resignation letter, one teacher compared symptoms some teachers experience with those that a domestic violence hotline described for an abused spouse. “…replace ‘he’ with ‘public educa- tion,’ it would almost match perfectly,” the letter stated. [blog www.toughnickel.com] [To Be continued… Part II will discuss how teachers came to be so low in the food chain, current efforts that are changing some legislative minds, how teacher salaries compare with other professions, the role of women in teaching, how society takes advantage of a teach- er’s altruistic nature, a call to reassess testing, and what’s needed to improve classroom and school safety in an increasingly dangerous society.]