Saturday, May 11, 2019

Kim Frencken: What is a teacher's time worth?

What is a teacher's time worth?

A friend recently posted a similar question on social media. She got a variety of answers. Strangely enough, my husband and I had a similar conversation a few days later. He was of the persuasion that a professional should return calls and take care of business regardless of the time of day or the day of the week. Needless to say, I disagreed. So, you decide... Should teachers be on call 24/7? or Should teachers be allowed to have days off? I think you already know my answer.

I wish I had a dime for every email or call I've received after contract hours. Every teacher wishes this. We'd all be on vacation somewhere. Lying on a sunny beach, a cool breeze in our face, and people running to do our bidding. Nice dream, huh? But back to reality... those after hour contacts.

Some are pleasant. Some... not so much. Some parents are just using email as a tool of communication after their own busy work day. They don't expect you to respond until the following day. These people are reasonable. They have a life. And they respect that you have one also. 

Then there are those other people. The ones who call at 9:30 to tell you that you aren't married and don't have kids so you don't deserve to be a teacher. True story (back in my single days). It is apparent that these people have too much time on their hands. If they can dream of ways to threaten me, they obviously need something to do. 

Or what about hours of mindless professional development that robbed you of the last rays of summer sunshine. PD, in the form of videos, that must be completed before the first day back at school. Can we all say bloodborne pathogens? Webinars to watch over a busy weekend. Usually the weekend before quarter grades are due. Reports to complete. Forms to fill out. Meetings to attend. School events to chaperone. All outside contract hours. All unpaid. All mandatory.

Should teachers be required to respond to parent communication prior to the next school day? Can district continue demanding that teachers complete professional development on their own time? Can teachers be required to volunteer to chaperone school events? 

Personally, I think that any communication response within 24 hours is acceptable. And if PD is important enough to require it, then it is important enough to provide time to complete it. Need chaperones? Pay overtime. Many teachers live at or below poverty level and are eager to earn extra pay. 

Yes, I understand that all professions have certain amounts of preparation and training that is required and unpaid. I can't think of many professionals that don't have to invest extra time. But teachers already give out of pocket and out of their own time. 

Every lesson, from creating to planning to prepping, is almost always done on a teacher's personal time. Reports and forms are almost always filled out on a teacher's personal time. Classes for certification requirements are completed (and often paid for by a teacher) on a teacher's personal time. Parent communications are usually done before or after the teacher's workday. How much more will be expected? When will teachers be valued? When will they be treated like professionals? Like experts in their field?

Still not convinced. Consider this: You wake up on a Saturday morning. Your central heat/air has gone out. Will you suffer the entire weekend? or Will you pay the weekend rate? Usually time and a half to have the repairs completed. 

Or what about this: You arrive home and find that your pet needs veterinary assistance. Do you make your pet suffer through the night (I hope not!) or take them to an after hour clinic? The prices at an after hour clinic is usually significantly higher than your local vet. Arrive home after a long day and open your mail: Your neighbor is suing you for the tree limb that fell on their fence. Do you know what an attorney charges for after-hour consultation? Or you could just lose sleep worrying about the lawsuit.

Get the point. I'm not trying to be unfair to other professions. And I'm not trying to be insolent. I am trying to make a point. Time is money. My time is valuable to me. It is also valuable to my family. I am trying to earn a living and prepare for my days as a senior (aka retirement). All I'm asking is that my time be respected and I be paid for the value of my work.

(For more of Kim Frencken's writing and information about her educational products, check out her blog, Chocolate For the Teacher.)

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