Capitol Connection: Educator for a Day

February 5, 2014

Having recently spent a day following in the footsteps of teachers at various Canton public schools, I can truly appreciate the work of our teachers – work that goes well beyond the dismissal bell at the end of the school day.

I participated in the National Education Association’s Educator for a Day program and had the opportunity to visit Canton Middle School, Canton High School, Canton Intermediate School, and Cherry Brook Primary School and met with teachers, administrators, and students throughout a full school day. The experience renewed my appreciation for the amazing work teachers do for their students and community.

Too often I hear that teachers have it made. They have summers off, six hour work days with two prep periods, and a good paying secure job. Who wouldn’t want a job like that?

Unfortunately, teachers do not have it made.

Let’s set the record straight.

For beginner teachers, the pay is not “great” given the amount of education that is required to obtain their degrees. According to the National Education Association (NEA) annual pay for teachers has fallen over the past 60 years compared to the annual pay of other workers with college degrees. The difference is so great that the average earnings of workers with at least four years of college are over 50 percent higher than the average earnings of teachers (NEA).

Teaching jobs are also not as secure as some think. During my Educator for a Day experience I learned that if a school’s budget has not been approved by the end of the school year, non-tenure teachers often receive non-renew notices. So, unless the central office contacts these teachers in the summer, they will not have jobs in the fall. Teachers count on approved budgets to keep their jobs.

One of the most unsettling assumptions about teachers is that they only work six hours a day. If a teacher was only responsible for lecturing that might be true, but in reality teachers do a whole lot more, and are expected to take work home too. Teachers are responsible for creating lesson plans, engaging children and young adults, assessing student progress, and watching out for the wellbeing of those they teach. When the school day officially ends, many teachers remain later to offer extended help to students in need. Teachers take home assignments just like their students do. Grading papers, tests, and labs and preparing for the next school day require homework.

Teachers also advise after-school programs, mentor younger teachers and organize student body activities. All these responsibilities mean more time at work, beyond their official work hours.

My time in the Canton schools made me appreciate our educators and also helped me better understand their concerns over new evaluations and teacher assessments. Teachers do so much more than they are asked, and their quality is determined by so much more than what is tested. Assessments are necessary to make sure our teachers meet our standards, but if our teachers express concerns over the testing, we all need to listen closely.

I am very thankful that both my children have had exceptional teachers in their lives throughout their informative years. Teaching is a noble profession as teachers educate tomorrow’s inventors, entrepreneurs and leaders. I was honored to spend a day with our local educators, and I am happy to say I learned a lot!