In defense of teachers

A recent letter to my local paper, The Riverside, CA, Press-Enterprise, carried the headline “Teachers have no reason to complain about pay.” This letter writer totally misses the mark. My wife has been a teacher for nearly 30 years, and, when I retired from journalism, during which time I covered schools, I wrote for a local school district and subbed for a number of years, so I have some insight into the field.

Teachers are some of the most hard-working, well-educated and underpaid people I know. The letter sent to the paper is the ultimate in “fake news.” Let’s take this misinformation point-by-point.

The writer says that teachers work no night shifts and have weekends off. “Wow,” he writes. “That must be nice.” Yes, living in his fantasy world must be nice. Just because teachers are not in the classroom does not mean they are not working. My wife’s nights, weekends and holidays are spent either grading papers or preparing for the next week’s classes. I wonder what this letter writer does on nights, weekends and holidays.  Even during vacations, teachers are always looking for classroom ideas and items they can use to help facilitate the learning process. It never stops.

The writer also states that because of their no-summer schedules and 165-day school years, teachers work what amounts to a “three-day work week.” Unbelievable. First, I don’t know where he got this number, but, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, ( the actual average for school districts across the country is 180 days. I would suggest that people like this writer do some research, as he was taught by at least one teacher, I’m sure, before making comments such as these. And, second, as I said, teachers work virtually every day, even when they are not in the classroom.

Another point he makes is that, “They have no real pressure in having to hit a sales goal, obtaining new customers, no construction in the hot sun or rain and no arresting people.” The writer has no idea how much pressure teachers are under thanks to endless testing, overbearing parents and some administrators who thinks as he does and pushes teachers to their limit.

And to say teachers are not under pressure makes clear that the writer doesn’t follow the news. How many investment offices are shot up by irrational people? How many construction workers are shot and killed on the job? And how many others have to deal with daily threats and unruly children? I would say the pressure to stay alive, and keep your students alive, is probably as great, if not greater, than having to make a sale.

Finally, to what seems to be the main point of his letter: that teachers are paid too much. This is truly laughable. Well, here’s a fact for you. According to US News and World Report, “High School Teachers made a median salary of $59,170 in 2017. The best-paid 25 percent made $75,970 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $46,990.”

On that kind of salary, teachers have to help support a family in incredibly expensive times, pay for health insurance and, since many school districts are short on cash, have to pay for their own classroom supplies. And how about the San Francisco teacher undergoing cancer treatment who had to pay for her own sub?

No pressure there.

One of the problems here is that this writer, and many others like him, have no idea what’s going on in our nation’s schools. Teachers used to get respect, but no more. The way teachers are treated is criminal, considering that we charge them with educating our children and keeping them safe.

Not making enough money? I don’t think so.

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