Saturday, July 14, 2007

Extra Work, Extra Money

I got another paycheck today. Although, this time I know what it is and why I got it. Also, I got it on the right day. The other one isn't figured out yet.
At the beginning of the year, we were given the new school schedules for each grade and asked if we had any questions. Never being one to be shy, I said I had a question. "Why do we start earlier, get out at the same time, and have less time at lunch?"

What I got in response was not so much of an answer as an accusation. Something along the lines of "You're not willing to do it for the kids?" That wasn't the exact phrasing, of course. But it is a very common "answer" to questions that teachers ask.

Why do I have to buy a class set of scissors with my own money? Why do you have me working more hours than my contract states? Why am I being asked to be at a meeting during my "duty-free" lunch hour? Why do you treat me like I'm a delinquent six-year old and not a professional?

"It's for the kids." "Don't you care about the kids?" "If you were here for the kids..."

All variations of the answer usually received, and all incomplete, insulting, and totally off the subject. How dare they even insinuate that we're not here for the kids? What am I here for? The money?

And in what other profession would it be expected that if you don't let others take advantage of you, you're not really dedicated. Surgeons aren't expected to buy their own scalpels, or else be accused of "not really caring about the patients." Engineers aren't expected to work hours and hours for free because otherwise they aren't there for the right reasons. There's just no analogous example in other professions.

However, we won this (very small) victory. Someone figured out that we worked ten minutes over contract each day. (I think it actually might have been 15 or 20, but I'm not sure. The official figure is 10.) It adds up to 30 hours extra. It seems kind of silly, because we actually each work hours extra every day. But we take the fights we can win, I suppose.

This was brought to the administration, who said oh, of course we'll pay you for that! Tell you what, we'll give you a choice. You can vote on having enough minimum days to make up that time, getting paid for it, or a combination. We voted to have a combination. Did we get it? No.

We didn't get the minimum days, and as the school year was ending, it didn't look like we were going to get the money either. The administration started fudging the numbers and offering us much, much less than our hourly rate.

But we recently got an email from our union rep.

Attention Teachers:

We have been working very hard to get this issue settled and I thank everyone who helped along the way. The last two weeks I have been working with XXX to come to a resolution. The initial offer from the administration/district was $400.00. That was not an acceptable figure. So, they went back to the table and I got word today that they have agreed to pay all of the teachers $1000. The first installment of $600 will be disbursed by the 15th of July. The remaining $400 should be coming around
the 31st. I appreciate your patience and hope this will make your summer even better.

Yay! The profession of teaching is still possibly unfixable - completely messed up, chewing people up and spitting them out. But on this one, small point, we won.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

>And in what other profession would it be expected that if you don't let others take advantage of you, you're not really dedicated.

I'm sorry to have to break it to you: Virtually everywhere, particularly if you're between the ages of 25 and 45, you're expected to do it for the love of it, not the money. (Except in the financial industry, where you're expected to love money.)

The concept of using others for private gain is so ubiquitous now that Lawrence Lessig coined the term "digital sharecropping" to represent the situation where a few people reap profit from other peoples' work (e.g. most social media sites).

From reading your blog over the years I think -- as you point out regarding the job you're leaving teaching for -- it seems to me to be about the fact that the children's classrooms are ill-equipped (that's why you're buying scissors anyway), and the janitorial staff is minimal at best, and the equipment doesn't work, and mental health services (and other relevant social services) don't exist.

Basically you're teaching children in a combat zone without the recognition that this is what you're doing.

So: is it the pay itself, or is it being chronically under-resourced, under-supported, and knowing your good work is socially invisible while your (meaning teachers') failures are paraded publicly and humiliatingly?

For the record, of course I think teachers should be paid more, but I also think that the economy is in poor, poor shape, and that's why wealthy people with children in prep schools who have private college bought and paid for, who vacation for several weeks every year, nevertheless feel they are one step away from financial peril. It's why "middle class" now means relying on hand-me-downs.

The top 1% may be much, much richer, but they do sense the instability that propagating such income disparities have wrought.