I was speaking to a friend of mine recently who retired from teaching, very reluctantly, a few year ago. She loved what she did. I imagine she was like a lot of teachers you know. Dedicated to her work. Putting in more hours than ever recorded taking care of the paperwork required by the multiple agencies funding education. She took extra classes to get her master’s because it made her a better teacher and was the only way she could reach a compensation level even slightly in alignment with the amount of time, energy and love she put into her work. When we walked together in the mall in South Jersey, she would be greeted by current and former students multiple times and always with a smile, a hug and a good memory.
So I recently spoke to her and we discussed all the things teachers are now expected to do on top of teaching. They are responsible for social distancing, mask wearing, in class lessons, online lessons, paper and pencil through the mail lessons, weeks broken up into in-class and Zoom days and – oh yeah – still do the paperwork, lesson plans and grading already added on to the time spent teaching. If you are teaching children with special needs, multiply everything by a factor of 5.
I was exhausted just listing those things. I don’t understand why, under these circumstances, anyone would want to teach who wasn’t receiving a Tom Brady level salary. Honestly, why aren’t we paying teachers what they deserve, which is somewhere between rock star and Jeff Bezos. When I expressed this to my friend, her simple answer was that teachers would find the time, figure it out, deal with the issues and get on with educating our children. She did not find this in any way a deterrent, though she was not opposed to the idea that teachers should probably be paid a lot more money for what they are expected to do.
The joke going around during these days of Covid 19 homeschooling is that now that parents have a better feel for what teachers go through every day, they will be more supportive of paying teachers what they’re worth. I’m betting that about now, the humor has gone out of that joke as parents face another semester of classes stitched together on a hope and a prayer. Teachers definitely belong in the same pool as first responders when it comes to putting their lives and health on the line for us.
This unexpected disruption of a routine that was critical to the family is wreaking havoc in some homes. Not all parents have the luxury of staying home to see that their children make it to their Zoom classes or to teach them math or help with science projects. When two incomes are needed to keep the family afloat, you can’t just walk away from your job to teach your children. Some parents do not themselves have the education needed to help their children or monitor their online classes. For some parents, English is a second language they haven’t quite conquered yet so helping their child with schoolwork in English is simply not possible. And for some parents, access to the Internet is not available because they can’t afford wifi or a computer.
All of these situations ultimately fall on the teacher to resolve. They are the only ones who can help some of these students and so, as we have come to expect from our teachers, they go the extra mile and create as many Covid 19 schooling plans as needed to meet each child and each family’s need. They do this because most teachers are not in it for the money, though even writing that statement makes me laugh. No one would ever go into teaching for the money unless their goal was to be underpaid for the work they perform until the day they retire. No, teachers teach because it’s who they are and what they do. They want their students to succeed. And so they twist themselves into knots to create ten different ways to teach the same material while social distancing, wearing masks and controlling students who are scattered throughout classrooms, homes, villages and cities.
We don’t pay teachers enough. Not even close.