There was recently a letter to teachers from a WA state government leader that was posted on Facebook. This open letter declared that the teachers were simply whining about not getting their cost of living raise and that if they didn’t like their job they should look elsewhere. She also touted her beliefs about teachers getting the summer off. Boy did that stir up emotions on both sides of the coin! I’m not going to link the article or go into more details, but I will say that Washington State voters chose to give teachers a cost of living increase, but the teachers didn’t get it due to state budget issues. This has occurred on more than one occasion. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about political things, especially when it concerns education. But I’m not posting to rant or rave about political issues here. I just wanted to put another perspective out there.
Yesterday I was up at my school district’s main office taking care of some technology business. After doing so, I found several colleagues in various points throughout the building. At first, I found a few of my fellow Instructional Coaches, a Dean of Students, and many classroom teachers working on materials for the Common Core. In two other rooms there were many teachers participating in some staff development courses. In the Human Resources office, teachers were turning in new transcripts for classes that they recently completed. All these encounters were evidence of the “work” that teachers do during the summer.
In addition, this wasn’t my only day in the district building this summer. I’ve been there several times myself, and there has yet to be a day where classroom teachers were not participating in some sort of extra work.
As part of my job as an Instructional Coach, I have to record how many minutes I work each day doing the various parts of my job. I track my 1:1 coaching sessions, small and whole group instruction, time working with the team, professional development for myself, reading/writing emails, and other various activities. Our district then turns this in to the state in order to demonstrate that we are adhering to the terms of the grant that supports my role. In 2014-15, I was contracted to work 1207.5 hours. You see, as teachers we only get paid for our contracted hours, not the actual hours we worked. I worked 1493.5; 289 hours UNPAID. That’s equal to a little over 7 weeks. In 2015-16, I was contracted to work 1281 hours. I worked 1460.5; 179.5 hours UNPAID. That’s equal to about 4 weeks. (It would have been more, but I had taken extended sick leave in order to recover from surgery.) So, technically, I already worked my summer hours…and DIDN’T get paid for them.
I know this is a heated topic in some realms of public conversation. I know that I have worked for much less when in the private sector. But I also know that the education of today’s children is, without argument, a most important endeavor. We can agree to that. Sometimes I think we get wrapped up in emotional issues and forget to find the common ground.
I thank all my colleagues for continuing to work during the summer months because I know that the work will benefit the students in our classes. A good, growing teacher wants to do his/her best and without the extra work much can be lost. So, we will continue to work in all seasons and keep up the good fight. Our students are worth it.