Thanks to recent negotiations, the high school district in which I work just increased the top rates for all teachers by about 7%. Those teachers in the top tiers are now making just over $100,000. It's great to get such a nice raise. I know I am well paid in comparison to teachers around the California and the rest of the nation.
Here's the problem.
I am somewhat frustrated that there are teachers who make the same money as I do but work far less. There are some obvious things that contribute to the "teachers are glorified baby-sitters" mentality that often comes from the general public who do not truly know what it takes to be competent in our profession. (Why should we pay them more? They already get tons of free time!) It is something they may have experienced in the manufacturing end when they attended school. There really are teachers who work their contract hours only: 15 minutes before the first bell and 15 minutes after the last bell. Some of them are even able to get most lesson planning and most grading completed within those hours. One does not always see the hard work and design that goes into a product as complex as teaching human children.
I sometimes think I am doing something wrong when I think about those colleagues. I struggle with the planning and grading part, because of the complexity of many of the critical thinking assignments. I sometimes let things sit for a while before I grade them. I am working on improving this facet of my career. I generally do not do those tasks when I have students in the room- when we are together in class, my focus is with them- guiding, managing activities and learning and leading. I am also learning to let go of control of the grades. Self reflection and peer evaluation has a place in this arena for both students and teachers.
Here's what I think will make the conditions better.
It would help us to have fewer students in our class loads. I already have about 165 students that I see every day. There is a huge instructional difference in a class with 38 students and one with 25. I would willingly mentor 20-25 students for their entire 4 years if my actual class sizes were down to 25 students. I think it would keep them involved in school and continuing forward toward a positive career.
Collaboration and planning could be (better) shared if there were more teachers in each department willing to teach students with fewer (old) lecture notes and (really old) worksheets and more (updated) lab and inquiry activities that require critical thinking. We also need less discussion (complaining) about 504 and IEP requirements and more sharing of real world strategies to work with all students.
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At least in my district, we are part way there (for those teachers in the top years and educational levels). But the ones who are always only on campus from bell to bell should have to make some adjustments. I am ready to teach and work in the world Mike envisions. I wonder if others would join me?