On a local news station’s post, a Facebook Ph.D. commented, “Teachers got it good they [teachers] get a great pension they never pay in the Social Security they get free lunches they only work 9 months a year and have weekends off.”
I shouldn’t read the comments, but since I did, I felt the need to clarify…no, I feel the need to rant since Mr. Facebook Ph.D. refused to engage. Too many people believe such.
Teachers do have pensions. In South Carolina where I taught until retirement, we contribute 7% of our salaries to have a pension. Seven percent. Even after I retired and “double dipped,” a misnomer, I paid 7% into my pension which didn’t increase my retirement one penny.
We also contribute to our own health care after retirement to the tune of $100.00 per month on average. It is, with Medicare, great health care unless you are becoming deaf, going blind, or losing your teeth.
Nationwide, most teachers pay into Social Security although there are some teachers that don’t, about 1.2 million. Their states chose to roll the dice that their state offered pensions would pay better. A few rolled “seven come eleven” and others have thrown “snake eyes.”
Free lunches? “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” and most teachers have little time to gulp it down anyway. I’m sure there are school districts that provide teachers with free lunches but for over 40 years I bought mine or carried a paper bag with a sandwich, yogurt, and a pack of Nabs. Oh, for those days of rectangular pizza slices with a side of canned corn and a cup of peaches.
I normally ate on the move making sure little Johnny or Jenny Sue didn’t do something stupid. My favorite duty station was restroom monitor…eating my turkey sandwich while breathing in ‘ode de urine’ making sure little Johnny wasn’t lighting up a blunt or flushing someone’s head in the urinal.
The final nail that caught my attention, the fallacy of having three months off in the summers and free weekends. “There ain’t no such thing as a free summer or weekend.” There are courses to be taken, instructional workshops to attend, standards to be reviewed, and yearly plans to be made during the summer…and now you must review your syllabus making sure nothing you teach or none of your reading material suggests CRT, Marxism, or why little Johnny has two dads or two mothers.
Weekends? Papers to be graded, grades to be recorded, and lesson plans that must be turned in first thing on Monday morning.
But what about your planning period? Parents to contact or professional learning communities or data meetings to attend…a quick trip to the restroom? Planning? Rarely does planning happen. Did I mention that most weekday evenings suck too?
As a side note, because many are confused, teachers are paid for the 180 days they teach and whatever planning days are added in. In our state, South Carolina, it is 190 days. Federal holidays? Nope. Summer? Nope. Our 190 days are divided into 12 months so that we don’t starve in the summer. Still, many must take summer jobs just to supplement their families’ income if they can work it around workshops, we aren’t paid for…or paid little, to attend.
So, while we are paid over the summer, we are not paid FOR the summer. Further note, many school districts are moving to year-round school. Did the pay go up…nope, nope, nope, they are still on site for 190 days.
Much is being written and there are myriads of opinions about teacher shortages. Good, experienced teachers dropping out, few new teachers entering the profession. Anyone who slept through my U.S. history class has offered an opinion.
Many teachers have pointed to the increase in lack of respect from politicians, administrators, parents and students. While lack of respect has certainly increased, it is not new. Teachers have never been recognized as “real” professionals…we aren’t even recognized as real state employees unless it benefits the state.
When I first faced a class of smiling faces some 50 years ago, I was an anomaly of sorts, a male in a profession populated by females. At the junior high school there were only four males on staff. A principal, an assistant principal, a physical educator and yours truly.
Male teachers were recruited to coach, not to provide mentorship in the classroom unless a student was a blue-chip athlete. Coaches with history degrees were a dime a dozen which is why I added a physical science certification to put beans on the table…ridiculously small plates of beans. Yes, I was originally recruited to coach but am proud of my teaching career. I didn’t teach to coach, I coached to teach.
Why might you ask? Teaching was viewed as women’s work, a nice side job to keep the “little lady” out of trouble and supplement the household income provided by the male who “did the real work.” This was an improvement over the days when “schoolmarms” had to quit if they got married. The view that teaching was a side job is one of the reasons teachers haven’t been paid as professionals until recently, if at all. Presently, women make up 75% of the nation’s teachers.
Another problem in what was once “textile country,” you don’t need to have much education to run a machine and uneducated workers don’t expect to get paid as much. “Keep ’em stupid, keep them poor” might have been a mantra.
That belief is a holdover from the textile days which ended in the [1980s and 1990s] and why we have a challenging time finding qualified technicians and engineers to fill our needs. We must recruit from other states and countries to maintain our 24th-place ranking in economic outlook.
Teachers tend to be looked down upon because of the “Those who can do, those who can’t teach” mentality which has been around much longer than the past decade. A family member once asked me in all seriousness when I was going to get a real job. Another asked me when I would graduate from teaching at a junior high school.
Public education is in decline and parents, politicians and those who believe education should be used to fatten certain people’s billfolds (private schools) are throwing the dirt in its grave. With 300,000 teaching vacancies, many states are lowering their teaching standards to allow anyone who can breathe the opportunity to teach. Many parents believe this is fine as long as their schools provide free child care and a couple of free meals during the day. One more slap in the face of dedicated teachers.
Public education hasn’t helped itself. Bloated administration costs, emphasis on testing instead of problem solving, passing everyone to elevate graduation rates, and a decrease in reading and math skills upon graduation have not endeared public education to certain groups, including me. We continue to lag in math and reading. There are more Facebook Ph.D.s on the horizon, but these won’t be able to add and subtract either.
Add to this toxic brew, the politically motivated accusations of indoctrination, grooming, teaching CRT, teaching Marxism, etcetera, ad nauseum, I understand why good teachers are getting out and teacher education programs are sucking air. I had two choices of callings when I graduated from college. In this environment I would pick the other one.
I would like to emphasize three points that exemplify the problems found in South Carolina. This is an incomplete list.
We have formed a task force in South Carolina at Governor McMaster’s insistence to study teacher recruitment and retainment. There are no presently teaching teachers on the task force. These members are political appointees and the two who have taught haven’t in several decades.
A new state superintendent will be elected this November and one candidate running does not yet have the qualifications to run and no teaching experience. She has never stood in front of a classroom. I pray she will not meet the qualifications in November because in our state, she will be elected because so many people vote straight party ballots.
If education is fully funded in South Carolina this year, it will be the first time in over a decade.
If you want to know what is wrong with education try something different and it is not a task force. Ask a teacher and involve frontline teachers in problem solving…something we’ve really never done and probably won’t. Until then we will exclaim with pride, “Thank goodness for Mississippi.”
To sum up, a quote from former teaching peer, Brent Boiling, “Teachers at *** used to be like gourmet chefs…. creative and free to do their jobs as professionals. Now they’re McTeachers.”