Wednesday, May 31, 2006

When Equal isn't Fair

Returning to Frederick M. Hess's Common Sense School Reform:
Our existing compensation system encourages career-squatting by veteran teachers tired of their labors, discourages young college graduates from entering the profession, frustrates those educators who pour their weekends and summers into their work, and attracts candidates who are often less motivated than those who got away (115).

With my second official year of teaching concluding in the next few weeks, I've taken the time to reflect on what I have and have not accomplished. One of the random thoughts that came through my mind as I sat in Starbucks with my wife and babyTate was, "Did I choose teaching because it was safe?"
Once we have reasonably proven our worth to a school, unless we really screw things up, it is quite likely we will have a job, if at the very least somewhere in the district, until we choose to move on or change careers. I wondered if that security prompted my ulitmate choice of profession. I had originally chosen a career in Youth Ministry, but in retrospect, the reality that a youth pastor only stays at a church for an average of 1-2 years, frightened me.
As proven by my 3,000 mile journey away from home to attend college, I can be adventurous. In terms of a career, though, I find myself less adventurous. I enjoy the security that can come with the teaching profession.
Unfortunately, as I look around even my campus, too often teachers do "career-squat." What ultimately bothers me is that while the younger teachers tend to put in extra effort, weekends, chaperoning, attending events, we don't get the same monetary compensation.
Clearly the difficulty is finding a way to better compensate. We've all gone around the horn debating how to effectively measure one teacher to the other for purposes of merit pay. And I can't say I have anything new or radically enlightening to say about it. But, there are moments when I would be willing to take the risk of some type of merit pay.
Merit pay intrigues me because I fear that one day someone might say the same about me as I say about others now. I fear the shaded corner of education where the career-squatters hide. Unhappiness lurks there. Apathy hangs in the air there. Merit pay would help to keep us away from that place we should not speak of.
Merit pay will most likely never come into existence in educational careers. Too many career-squatting teachers still voting on contracts.


At 8:27 AM , Blogger Jessie said...

Wow! I really feel you on this topic. I am one of those younger teachers who works on into weekends and summers, who attends events, who chaperons, etc... I fear becoming one of those unhappy teachers who is only at school during contract hours, and could care less. I find myself getting upset at those teachers who do nothing except sit behind their computers, or talk on the cell phone (even though we take the students' phones if we see them), who show up late to school, and don't attend the in-services or meetgs that we are expected to. Yet every year, those teachers get rehired because of politics or the fear of not having enough teachers in the classrooms. I just finished my 5th year in a Florida public high school, and have reflected on my reason for staying in one of the most disrespected professions in the nation. Every time I come to the same conclusion: although I can picture myself in a few different prefessions, I cannot imagine feeling so fulfilled as the few times a student says to me, "I actually learned something this year."

At 1:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been teaching for 32 years and 17 in the same district, so I benefit from everything about the seniority system. Nevertheless, I think it's bad for education. Although I'm open to the idea, I think finding a good way to pay teachers by merit would be very difficult. What I find most objectionable, however, is laying off the youngest teachers no matter how good they are. I think the two reforms that would bring about the most improvement in our public schools would be to give teachers the power to remove disruptive and apathetic students from their classrooms, and to give principals the power to hire and retain the best teachers, and to get rid of any that aren't doing their jobs effectively.

At 3:29 PM , Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I am one of those teachers who does plenty of "extra" without getting paid. However, let me offer you another side of the issue: cronyism.

You asked in a previous post about how school districts do their hiring. Many districts I have encountered hire former graduates or the son- or daughter-of-AFOM (A Friend of Mine.) I actually was once sitting outside a personnel director's office when I overheard him saying that he was planning to hire a son-of-AFOM for a job for which I was a finalist. He then brought me in, interviewed me, and offered me an aide's job on that same team-- holding the Flavor of the Month's hand, I was given to understand.

We all know them-- people who hang out in the principal's office, shooting the breeze, seeming to get nothing much accomplished in the classroom, but always being one of those in the inner circle. In fact, they are usually the LEAST effective teachers on staff, since this hanging on is their survival tactic.

I have always gotten along fine with my principals, but in a large school, it can take forever for the principals to realize a teacher's true value when it comes to merit pay, since some of us do our job quietly but effectively.

Cronyism and nepotism are the reasons why I am leery of merit pay, as I have posted at my place. I have seen it be twisted in the business world, and I know it would be just as twisted in the school world.


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