Seattle is used to the first day of school being tense. After all, during the last three contract negotiations between the Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Education Association, parents weren’t sure if they should send their kids to school until the last few days of summer break. This year is no different, and with new evaluation models coming in the next few years, who knows what 2015 will look like.
But what often gets lost in these negotiations is how people treat teachers and how teachers deserve to be treated. Many people discount the roles of teachers and don’t think they deserve whatever raises they get. “After all,” these people say, “teachers only work 9 or 10 months a year!” But in actuality, the amount of pay teachers get greatly underrepresents the amount of work they do. If teachers were paid like baby sitters — $3 per hour per child, Seattle’s teachers would make over $100,000 per year given current student to teacher ratios.
But money aside, teachers don’t get the support and respect that they deserve. Seattle classroom sizes have been growing for years. In 2011, the Seattle Public Schools had 20.9 students per teacher, according to the Washington Policy Center. This year, the average classroom size in a Seattle elementary school is 28 students; in middle and high school, it’s 31 students; and one of the issues up for debate in the new contract was adding two more students per classroom.
Worst still, blame is being shifted from parents and students to teachers and schools.
Decades ago, parents would ask they children, “Were you nice to your teacher today?” Today, it’s, “Was your teacher nice to you?”
Teachers don’t become teachers because they’re looking for money. There are easier ways to get rich than graduating from college, going on to finish a teaching credential, and then starting in the mid-$30,000s with benefits. Teachers become teachers because they want to help kids and to dedicate their life’s work to them. That’s a lot more than many people can say, and it commands much more respect than teachers receive now. (end)