|This is 13 of 31 slices for the March Slice of Life Story Challenge.|
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A teacher stopped in to to say hello this morning on her walk from the parking lot to her room. My door was open. It was dark, not yet seven. Coffee was brewing and I was heating up some breakfast. She shared how difficult her year has been. A young mother of two children under the age of seven, she said that for the first time ever she has felt as if she has to choose between work and her family.
I don't have a lot encouraging words for my friend. She and I both acknowledge that the work on being a teacher extends being our "contract time" to use union language. I have never been able to fit lesson planning, assessment, evaluation and preparation into the 7.5 hours of the teacher's "official" (paid) work day. Before we had children the hours did not matter as much it seems. Now we face hard choices. I talked about setting boundaries, creating systems, and maintaining balance. There will always be more work to do. The work of a teacher does not end.
The cost of doing the business of teaching is high, but who is paying the price?
"You're working hard. You're barely making ends meet. You should be paid over time. Period."
That from President Obama in Jim Zarroli's "Employers React to New Overtime Expansion" on NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon. Like the hard working people who make "thirty to thirty-five thousand dollars with managerial responsibilities" in retail--jobs so labeled managerial so as to exempt the worker from overtime laws. Teachers (and administrators) are exempt from overtime. We do what it takes to get the job done.
Can you imagine tracking actual work hours? What would count? Could we count thinking and planning time? Could we count professional learning? Could we count assessment, diagnostic or intervention work we do with our students after school hours? Could we count grading papers at our own children's sporting events or school plays? Could we count driving to meetings? Could we count going to our own students' sporting events and functions? What could be paid parts of our job? What is "worth" it in the work of a teacher? Could we count the commute?
No, I'm sure the drive wouldn't count. That's just wishful thinking there. But in thinking about possible pay outs, I have to acknowledge true costs of benefits my job provides: health care, leave time and retirement. I appreciate health insurance and my schedule and possible retirement benefits. I know that according to one report, eighty-five percent of the education budget goes to payroll. Payroll costs account for the largest slice, no doubt. Still. Money matters in education.
Teachers want to matter too.
Angela Maiers says we are created for significance--teachers too. What can I say to a mother of two children trying to choose between doing what is right for the students in her classroom and doing what is right for the children in her arms? What can I say? You matter. It is a great message and if you have not watched Maiers deliver it, do.
Teaching (and parenting) is hard work, but it is work that matters. It is country building work. It is work that frees people. It is work that changes lives.