Teachers

Should Teachers Work for Free?

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This is a post that will resonate with most other teachers. The writer of this blog worries that she will be penalized if she doesn’t work for free.

I came home crushed today…my spirit shattered…my morale broken. Sometimes I feel like being a teacher in the public school system is like being in a dysfunctional relationship where you just keep finding reasons to justify the abuse you’re accepting. It’s like the battered woman that finds every reason to stay, because at the end of the day…it’s for the kids right? When is enough, enough?

I am writing this because I was literally penalized on my teacher evaluation because my family duties and responsibilities prohibit me from working free overtime. And do I still work overtime? Oh yes! Absolutely! Perfect example…on Friday I stayed on campus til 7pm. But that was mainly organizing materials for Science and Math. Writing a Science Assessment, grading papers, setting up my small groups and lessons for the following week, and cleaning the room. Is that me being professional? I guess it depends on who you ask…

I pride myself in the level of engagement in my classroom, my ability to challenge students with higher order thinking questions, and my relationship with my students. It gives me chills to know that I have such power over these little minds…and I’m helping them grow and learn. But despite the fact that I’m engaging my students in rigorous lessons, and that I’m a teacher that is WITH my students (on my feet and engaged with them) the majority of the day, and involved with my school’s committees and clubs…I still feel like it’s never good enough. I’ve tried to sit behind my desk a few times to get “data entry” done…and it was impossible with the amount of students who continually came to me to ask questions. It’s just not something that’s feasible within a teacher’s contracted hours. Furthermore, my job is to teach…not neglect my class and sit behind a desk all day. Well…today I got a big “slap in the face” when I opened my email first thing this morning. I received a bad evaluation for “Professionalism and Collegiality”. Do I get such surprise emails when I’ve done something amazing???? Absolutely not!…My friends, I am the only one in the intermediate grades at my school that is teaching 5 subjects. I meet with all academic teams on a daily basis, I plan for the Science team on my own, and I run the Drama program with my colleague after school each week. Not to mention I’m involved in committees and other things that support our school. I walk the hallways making sure I smile and greet every person in the morning – kids AND staff. I carry a bag home with work every day and stay up for countless hours after my children have gone to sleep. Monday through Friday, I am guaranteed grading papers with feedback and notes so that I can review with my students in class. I am a dedicated teacher…and I pride myself in the fact that I am professional, and I am a team player! Is that someone you would call unprofessional?

But God forbid I told myself that on weekends I would be with my family. God forbid I don’t sacrifice my family for free work. But with all that I do, at the end of the day…if I don’t work weekends or until 1am every night…I will NEVER be caught up with data or work. Because without the new data and lesson plan requirements, grading papers is ALREADY cutting into my personal life. And while I don’t mind the grading because I am passionate about my job…PLEASE tell me what a teacher with 3 kids who can’t work free overtime needs to do in order to avoid a negative teacher evaluation???? I’m hurt! This is terrible!

Friends, this is why labor unions were created, to prevent the exploitation of teachers and other workers. The writer says that other teachers are afraid to speak up. This is why labor unions were created. And this is why the overlords of economy and efficiency are eager to crush public sector unions, so people can be compelled to work 50 and 60 hour weeks without overtime. This is why so much money is pouring into charter schools, because 90% or so are non-union. This is why Teach for America is the workforce for many charters, because they are right out of college, they don’t have children, they have lots of energy, and they don’t mind working 10-11 hour days.

If you/we let this continue, teaching will be a job for temps, not a profession.

Get your union to stand up for you. If you don’t have a union, start to organize one. Join the Network for Public Education and let us magnify your voices. Join us at our annual convention in Raleigh, North Carolina, in April, and meet other teachers and allies from across the nation.

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