Teachers are Just Overpaid Babysitters.....You've got to be Kidding!
Every summer, right when the second week of June arrives the comments begin rolling in from friends and family. “Wow you are so lucky that you have the entire summer off. I wish I only had to work nine months out of the year. Must be nice.” At this time I usually stare at the individual for a few seconds trying to calm the frustration and anger building up inside my body and begin my rehearsed explanation about what teachers truly do during the school year and then during the summer. I say my rehearsed explanation because I have been bombarded by these comments since my first year of teaching and I have gotten used to defending my profession. Society has a giant misinterpretation of what the profession of teaching is. I don’t know if the misconception has always been there or if it has developed over the last few decades but I find it to be completely comical that society believes that teachers are just overpaid babysitters with holidays and summers off.
Shouldn't Teachers Be Considered Professionals Too?
Most teachers begin their careers because of their love of learning, students, teaching, and wanting to make a real difference in the world. Teachers want to touch lives and they do every single day they step into their classrooms. Teachers are required to have a Bachelor’s degree (even though over 50% of current teachers have a masters) which involves at least on semester of field teaching (like an internship) and teachers are also required to pass various state tests in order to become certified. So already an individual who wants to become a teacher has spent four years in college, an internship, and taken a variety of state tests to prove they are knowledgeable enough in their field.
After going through the brutal MULTIPLE interviews that many schools insist on having…. a teacher is then asked to step in front of a large audience and to teach a lesson in front of administrators and board members. Not in front of a group of students but adults. This final part of the interview can be very intimidating. Then after all the years of college, field teaching, tests, and interviews a person is finally hired as a teacher. But that isn’t where it ends. A teacher is now required to complete a certain amount of college level credits in a five year period or the teacher will be stripped of their certification. So after graduation from a four college, the learning is not done. More learning and classes are needed. 30 college level credits are needed in Pennsylvania to gain permanent certification after graduating from a four year college. In addition to the credits that are needed for permanent certification teachers are also required to complete Act 48 hours which is further training. A veteran teacher that has been teaching for 20 years could be stripped of their certification if they do not receive 180 hours of Act 48 credits every three years. So this means a veteran teacher is required to continue training and learning and if this veteran teacher does not keep up with their hours they are literally stripped of their livelihood. It’s not because they are performing below expectations. It could be simply because they did not receive enough training hours.
So to me that sounds a lot like what a professional would go through, however, teachers are not considered professionals. In fact teachers are at a real disadvantage. The average salary of a teacher is much lower than the average salary of other “professionals” with similar education and training.
According to the NEA, the average national starting salary of a teacher is $30,377, however other professions with similar training and education begin at a much higher salary.
Computer Programmers start at an average salary of $43,635
Public Accounting professional at $44,668
Registered Nurses start at $45,570
So not only are teachers starting out at a lower salary but as teachers gain more teaching years in the profession they continue to fall behind the pay raises other similar professionals received. The gap between the salary of a teacher and similar professions grows dramatically larger and leaves the teaching profession in the dust.
In fact, according to the NEA throughout the nation the average earnings of workers with at least four years of college are now over 50 percent higher than the average earning of a teacher. In fact, since 1996 teachers’ inflation-adjusted weekly wages rises just 0.8%, which is far less than the 12% weekly growth of other college graduate and OF ALL WORKERS!!!
On www.epi.org a comparison of teachers’ weekly wages to those of workers with comparable skill requirement, including accountants, reporters, registered nurses, computer programmers, clergy, personnel officers, vocational counselors, and inspectors, shows that teachers earned $116 less per week in 2002. This is a wage disadvantage of 12.2%. I know what you’re thinking……”teachers get the summers off and work shorter days!!!” I’m Right, you were thinking that weren’t you. So not true.
Teachers Work Less
According to buzzle.com the average teacher is contracted to work 7 to 7.5 hours a day, which equals to less than 40 hours a week…right? HOWEVER, on average when looking at the actual amount of time teachers work on a weekly basis, studies have shown that teachers are working an average of 50 hours or more a week. When does society think tests/classwork are checked, or lessons are planned, or materials are gathered, or phone calls to parents are made, or conferences are held? I’ll give you a hint. It’s not during the school day, because during the school day teachers are busy teaching and trying to meet the needs of 25 or sometimes more different individuals in a short amount of time. Also, remember teachers do not get paid over time, so teachers are doing all of this extra work out of the goodness of their hearts and because of their dedication to their students.
Now for the summer break…. I don’t know if you recall all of the extra work hours and extra college credits that were mentioned above, but that’s usually what a lot of teachers are spending their summer doing. Teachers either get second jobs for the summer or teachers are in the classrooms, learning new ways to help their students. Also, please recognize that just because students go back at the end of August or the beginning of September, teachers are expected back much sooner than that. Also, during the summer, while UNPAID, we are expected to come into the classroom and get the class ready for the school year. No this doesn’t just involve hanging pretty pictures on the wall. A lot of teachers are asked to pack up all of their belongings into boxes at the end of every school year so that their classrooms can be properly cleaned, floors waxed, etc… So every year we pack our things up like we are moving and then come in during the summer and unpack everything that we just packed weeks prior and set it all up again. I don’t know if you have recently been inside an elementary classroom but that is a lot of packing to do… Year after year after year FOR FREE. So now that you know teachers actually work over 40 hours a week during the school year, spend their summers in college level classrooms on their OWN DIME, and come back early again UNPAID to get ready for the students, I do hope that if you're reading this you are starting to see that teaching is the glamorized version of what society has made it. I also hope that you caught onto the statement above which said teachers have to PAY WITH THEIR OWN MONEY to meet the mandated state requirements to keep one’s teaching degree. Teachers pay for their own continued education and college credits. This can equal to tens of thousands of dollars by the end of an individual’s teaching career, that is out of the teachers own pocket. This brings me onto my next topic.
Are teachers overpaid or underpaid?
Teachers' Out Of Pocket Expenses
Personally I spend about a $1,000 of my own money buying materials and supplies for my classroom at the beginning of each and every school year. So this means if I work 30 years I would have invested $30,000 of my own money into my classroom and students. That’s just at the beginning of the year. Throughout the year I spend anywhere from $500-$1000. It all depends on the needs of our students. Some of us are buying our students shoes, coats, and clothes because their parents have been unable to supply their child with these things. We often reward children for their good behavior and for a job well done, and those prizes do not simply appear out of nowhere. Teachers buy them. Some teachers also have to supply their own pencils, crayons, paper, texts, etc… for their classrooms. Districts do not always supply their teachers with the materials they need to complete their jobs. I have personally bought Halloween costumes for students whose parents couldn’t afford a costume for the Halloween party and then let them keep it so they could wear it for trick or treating. Teachers supply hats and gloves in the winter, and backpacks throughout the year. Teachers hand out shampoo and soap if needed. Many teachers go above and beyond what they are required to do, but unfortunately society continues to turn a blind eye on the teaching profession.
Teachers are simply babysitters….. I’ve heard it so many times. HOWEVER, teachers are highly trained individuals. In most countries the teaching profession is held in the greatest and highest respect. In fact the teaching profession in other nations is usually one of the most well paid professions because other countries have realized the importance of the teaching profession. Teachers are respected in other nations, because other cultures have realized that teachers are molding the future generations. Teachers are creating the next Presidents, Lawyers, Doctors, Dentists, etc… without the teaching profession none of the others exist. Teachers are the building blocks of a nation but yet teachers are basically treated like annoying gnats that need to be swatted and knocked down. Teachers are often made the villain in the media because we’re are asking for so much. All we are asking for is to be treated like the professional we are.