A Different Perspective

I can remember as a student, hoping and wishing that the teachers would come off strike so that we can get back to school. Never truly understanding why the teachers were striking or what they were asking for besides more money, I just wanted to go back to school. I hated sitting at home and I have always been very passionate about education. As a parent and an educator, I am now experiencing a strike from a different position and gaining a new perspective.

Many onlookers do not truly understand the essence of what it means to be an educator. People who have never had the opportunity to enter a classroom as a teacher or interact with children on any level as educators do, think it’s a pretty cushy job. We get the weekends and summers off, holidays off, set schedule, go in at 7:00 am get off at 3:00 pm, but it’s not that simple. Yes, you’re right we do have weekends and holidays off but how much of the weekend/holiday is spent grading papers, writing lesson plans, attending sports/academic events to support our students and our own children, or working part time jobs to pay for the resources we need in our classrooms? Yes, you’re right we do have summers off but how much of our summer do we spend taking classes or attending professional development so that we can keep up with relevant pedagogy and curriculum and can continue to offer our students a fair and equitable education? Or how many of us work summer school or other summer programs to help our students stay ahead or get on track for graduation or just to supplement our income since we are not receiving fair and equitable wages? Yes, you’re right again we may clock in at 7:00 am and clock out at 3:00 pm but our work day does not end there. How many educators sponsor clubs/organizations and other programs to help enrich their students’ educational experience? How many of educators stay after hours to collaborate with their colleagues on how to improve lessons or how they can reach a student who is ready to give up, or how to address behavior issues that are being exhibited by students? Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

The truth of the matter is, there are parts of the job of an educator that the public will never see or ever be able to understand which makes it difficult for people to begin to understand the reasoning behind a strike. The decision to strike is a tough one because in the end, we know the students are impacted greatly. As passionate as educators are, the line has to be drawn somewhere. Especially, when you continue to meet every additional demand and deadline that is given to you no matter how little time given to complete it. The teachers in District 189 accepted a pay freeze for two years prior because the district was in financial straits, they continued to work in good faith, and to go above and beyond the call of duty despite the lack of support, much needed resources, and lack of respect shown from Board Administration. No to mention, we sit and watch hundreds and thousands of dollars invested into outside consultants and other agencies to come in and provide “professional development” on strategies that we are already using in the classroom or has no alignment to the curriculum that we are expected to teach. It’s a slap in the face for the Superintendent to then turn around and tell the educators that there is NO MONEY to invest in them.

At the end of the day, the teachers in East St. Louis School District 189 are not asking for anything that is not expected in the professional arena. I mean geesh, the Superintendent himself has received anywhere between a 9-19% pay increase each year he has been in the district. Name me a profession where the employees are not compensated for their level of education and years of experience. Name me a job where employees do not receive raises after being on their job after a certain amount of time. Even minimum wage employees receive an increase of pay after being on the job for so long.

So as an adult I have gained a new perspective, a teacher strike isn’t just about money, it’s about the respect and dignity for arguably the most important professions in the world. Without a teacher, where would you be? Not reading this, that’s for sure! Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

After All, They’re “Just Teachers”

Opinions are like butt holes, everyone has one. Unfortunately, not everyone exercises their right to keep them covered.  During stressful times such as the recent teacher strike in East St. Louis, everyone likes to weigh on what they feel teachers deserve and/or don’t deserve. It sickens me to hear people say what teachers don’t deserve because they’re “just teachers.” Well, let’s set the record straight on a few untruths, misunderstandings, non-considerations, or just plain outlandish ideas.

A teacher strike doesn’t only include “just teachers,” it also includes counselors, administrative assistants also known as secretaries, truancy officers, paraprofessionals, and much more support staff. WE ARE EDUCATORS. Educators are professionals just like lawyers, doctors, administrators, even superintendents. Just as those professionals, we attended prestigious colleges and universities. Believe it or not there is no such thing as a “just teacher” tuition. As a matter of fact, there are added expenses for us in the form of multiple certification exams that we must take and pass before we are allowed to become “just teachers” or “just school counselors.” Many of us have earned multiple degrees (BA, MA, and Doctorate), additional certificates, and continuous professional development hours. The professional development of an educator does not stop with a degree; it is lifelong.

While no one, maybe except for Superintendent Arthur Culver, enter/stays in the field of education to become rich, we deserve to be compensated just as our professional counterparts for the service we provide. Yes, we chose this profession and there are certain things we should not have to worry about, professional “RESPECT” and a fair contract are two of them. We have the same financial responsibilities as the rest of the adults in the world. We have the same student loan officials contacting us for repayment as you do; we have the same bills, mortgages, same cost of living. There are no financial privileges that come along with being “just a teacher.”

In the professional arena, people are compensated for their level of education and years of experience. The average salary of a doctor is well over $100,000. How much time does your doctor actually spend with you? But no one debates or argues their salary. You want to know why? Because they are compensated for their “EXPERTISE.” The average salary of a nurse is over $66,000.  The average salary of a lawyer is over $100,000 and paralegals is over $50,000. All compensated for their “EXPERTISE.” While the average salary of a teacher is a little over $46,000. Teachers spend 40 plus hours with their students and this doesn’t include planning time, grading papers, or time spent with extracurricular activities. This also doesn’t include the lunch periods, before school, after school spent tutoring/counseling/advising our students. Educators advocate for the future of our students, we are constantly cultivating their minds and inspiring our students to become doctors, lawyers, nurses, and paralegals. But for some reason people don’t feel that an educator’s job is that important or that we should be compensated for our “EXPERTISE.” At least that’s what I am hearing from those who make decisions about the funding of our schools on a state and federal level, and more recently Superintendent Arthur Culver and the many onlookers who are weighing in on the matter.

Or am I hearing a deeper issue… Are they saying that because we are “just teachers” in “East St. Louis” we don’t deserve professional respect and a fair contract? Do you think that the work we do is any less worthy than an educator elsewhere? Superintendent Culver, are you saying that those of us who are in the schools and classrooms daily working and advocating for our students before, during, and after school hours have not earned every penny owed to us? You have already expressed in so many words and through your refusal to negotiate that you have no respect for us as professionals. What else are you saying? Choose your words wisely, because after all, its “just teachers” who are working to enforce and implement the procedures and curriculum inside the classroom that has contributed to the growth and success of the district as a whole. The same growth and success of which you say you have earned every penny.

By the way, the average salary for a school superintendent is $111, 724 and Superintendent Culver’s salary is how much? Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Welcome

Welcome to my blog! I would like to thank you for visiting. It is my hope to begin dialogue about an array of topics. While we may not agree, I believe open dialogue is necessary. Feel free to weigh in on any topic that’s posted or post something that’s been on your mind. Remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion,  so let us be respectful. Thank you to my family and friends who encouraged me to follow through with this blog. It is truly a labor of love. Enjoy & thank you again for visiting. Now, let’s talk about it…