Monday, March 7, 2011

Wisconsin hates teachers

Events in Wisconsin, the politicians and people targeting teachers, has gotten me thinking. Are teachers really the under-worked, greedy deadbeats the right-wing media is painting them as?
Teachers do get a lot more holidays than the average person (though they do lose any choice in when to take them). They get to work banker’s hours, too, since school only starts at nine and is all over by 3:30, Monday to Friday. Pretty sweet gig.

A good teacher will clue you in a little. They don’t really get two months off over the summer. One month is more common, because they start going back to school midway through to prep for the next year. Likewise, they will also point out that while the school day might only be six or seven hours long, they usually show up an hour early, and stay an hour late. Or they are marking at home. Or doing lesson plans instead of watching TV. And they might go in to school a day or half-day on the weekend to catch up, especially around report-card time. If you really look at hours worked, they put in a 45-50 hour work week, so that means their “extra vacation” is really just time off in lieu of extra pay for overtime.
Terrible teachers will tell you the same thing, only they’ll be lying, because they don’t actually do any of that. And therein lies the problem.
In your typical job, you show up for work according to a schedule. You work while you’re there. When you leave the place of work, you are also done working. If you have a profession instead of a wage-slave job, then there is an amount of work you need to do, and if you have to put in extra time, so be it. But almost any job has a way of tracking how much work you actually accomplished. Teaching doesn’t have that. If you want to do the minimum, you show up for work when the bell rings, beat the kids out of the door at the end of the day, and never think about it again. You wing all your lessons, or just have your kids do photocopied worksheets all day while you drink coffee and nap. Sadly, this scenario is all-too common.
The solution to this is to standardize the teacher’s day. You get to work at 8. You leave 5. You do not come back to the school after hours. You don’t get two months off, you get a month, and then spend the rest of the time in the school or attending “up-training” seminars, thereby getting rid of those teacher PD days that happen throughout the year.
Will this solve the problem?
On the issue of bad teachers, the answer is unequivocally no. Bad teachers are lazy, virtually their defining characteristic. As we all know, lazy people have an infinite amount of energy when it comes to avoiding assigned labour. It would take them about four seconds to crack whatever new system you put over them (similar to hackers, I suppose).
On the issue of public perception, not a chance. People are never content about how their taxes are spent. One guy fifty years ago saw one municipal employee leaning on his shovel, and that image has become an indelible part of the social fabric. For all we know, that mythical city worker had just broken a toe, and didn’t want to put his full weight down. (It’s particularly amusing to me when I hear one public worker bitching about how lazy public workers are in a different department.)
So, since the problem can’t be solved, why waste money and time trying to fix it? Let the teachers have their golden age, for all things come to an end. Summers-off have been a mainstay of teaching since public schools were invented. Do we really want to be part of the generation that brought such a proud tradition to its knees? I think not.
Live while you can, teachers! Live like there's no tomorrow, because if the Wisconsin governor has his way, there won't be.

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