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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Teachers need to stop being part of the problem

Last years teachers all over the nation tired of being blamed for societies ills and both paid and treated like second class citizens rose up in protest and demanded more pay and better working conditions and they won too. Sadly, however Florida’s teachers did not join then, partly because it’s illegal to strike, what teachers did in Arizona, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Oklahoma, in Florida and partly because half of Florida’s teachers are at will employees and can be fired for any or no reason. In short Florida’s teachers felt stuck. Well I say no more.

As teachers head back to school I would like teachers to seriously consider something. It's not reviewing the latest scholarly article or their pedagogy. It’s not putting yourself in your children or their parents’ shoes to see where they are coming from either. Where those things are important what I ask you to do is much more so. What I am asking you to do is just work to the contract, nothing more and nothing less.

For decades now, school systems have only been able to function let alone succeed on the backs of the unpaid labors and sacrifices of their teachers. If it wasn’t for millions of teachers working late into the night and on weekends, often at the expense of their own friends and families’ education would have grinded to a halt and the powers-that-be both know this and have taken advantage of it.
Teachers by nature are givers and I am here to let you know that their altruism is a big part of the problem.

Why should state legislatures and for that matter the nation properly invests in education when they know they have millions of suckers who will shore up the cracks with both their free time and own money?

The truth is this may have been an acceptable arrangement when teachers were just required to teach but that’s not the case today, along with being a psychologist, social worker, nurse, and tutor, we are expected to collect and analyze data, be experts on technology, differentiate our curriculum to meet every child’s individual needs and make materials. Teachers are now disciplinarians and truant officers because administrations won’t get involved until you try multiple interventions or attempts, and we are paper pushers, boy oh boy do we push paper. When I started teaching just eighteen years ago my lesson plan was a little box on a calendar, now it’s a two paged, 8 font monstrosity and then there is the data I am required to take on every student in every class every day. Teachers today often have fewer and fewer resources and more and more demands. These demands also often take away from the number one thing we are supposed to do, teach.

In short teachers are given way too much to do and not nearly enough time and resources to do it all while their actual pay because of the rising costs of benefits and inflation is decreasing. Then societies demands are increasing as well as teachers have become the scapegoats of much of societies ills. Because of this the dam broke in a half dozen states and those teachers said enough and it’s time in teachers in Florida said enough as well.

Somewhere along the way things changed. Teachers went from revered members of the community to the face, often presented as the lazy and selfish face of America’s problems. If only Mrs. Mcgillicutty could have gotten little Billy up to speed instead of spending so much time in the teacher’s lounge complaining is a sentiment heard from Chris Christie, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Betsey DeVos, the Trump Clan and so many others. They blame teachers at the same time they cut budgets or raise them at a rate that doesn’t keep up with inflation. They invest in high stakes testing, blame the teacher evaluations and charter schools rather than the people doing the work and teachers, you, we, me, have let them.  

Does anybody see the irony in the fact that in a job that is routinely ridiculed and mocked, that many imply is easy has seen defections and shortages like never before?  

This must stop and step one is working to the contract. Teachers need to start just showing up and giving an honest effort for a day’s pay but when the dismissal bell rings leave and don’t take home any work with them. If it doesn’t get done that day then it goes on the pile for the next and if it gets to the point where there is too much to get done, then so be it. This is not a system created by teachers, but it is a system that teachers have allowed to fester, and it is a system that will never change unless we say enough is enough.

I'm not saying we should throw up our hands and quit. Instead I am saying that if we stopped being afraid then we can make things better. The crazy thing is right now teachers have the power. Florida recently declared a critical shortage in just about every teaching position. States across the nation are facing exoduses and shortages.

We need to stop working for free. If enough teachers did that then this alone would send a big enough signal that things need to change.

I will be honest there may be consequences for doing and saying the right things but if enough of us do it then there will be rewards as well and not just for teachers though to be honest the better things are for teachers the better they are for their students, but students as well as they see benefits of their own.

A teacher not worked to death and pulled in dozens of different directions is a better teacher. Smaller classes, and teachers given enough time to plan, and who doesn’t have to rush to their second job or worry about paying for braces for their child or new tires for their ten-year-old car, will be better teachers too and that is a benefit that children would reap as well. 

Teachers must stop letting the powers-that-be get away with barely funding a system that all too often hurts teachers and students alike by putting them in a position where success is nearly impossible to achieve. The powers-that-be must be held accountable for the system they created, or the system will never change.

There is a quote by Gandhi that many teachers like to use and that’s “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The change I would like to see is teachers and students both getting what they need.   

So, teachers when you return in the next few weeks do you and your students a favor, work to the contract and not one minute before. Like many things it will be hard at first but if enough of us do it then we and our students will reap the rewards.


  1. Yeah...

    It's not about altruism, much either. I simply won't be as effective as I would otherwise be, and, in a situation where VAM scores are the norm (with the other half being admin derived) simply working the contract hits BOTH aspects of those scores. Then, I am a prime candidate for surplussing, and am a less attractive candidate for schools that offer the subjects I want to teach.

    From a real perspective, working just the contract would be detrimental to my future, from a realists perspective. We are in a deeply red state.

  2. Chris, I agree with several points. We are overworked and underpaid. Definitely. I am on a professional contract (supposedly) protected by tenure, but I don't agree that teachers should just work contract hours and no more.
    Doing this goes against the reason most of us went into teaching - to help children grow and learn. Yes, "the powers-that-be" get away with underfunding and overregulating. Yes, there are ridiculous hurdles and time constraints. And yes, lawmakers know that the more they throw at us, the more we teachers will do. That's who we are.
    Do we deserve more? Heck yes! Should we have fewer demands on our time and wallet? Of course.
    But I'm not sure going down kicking and screaming is the answer. This just plays into the hands of those who call us lazy and selfish. Besides, my students deserve my best effort.
    My suggestion for everyone in the education arena is to do some homework, then GO VOTE. Vote the primaries in August. Change the powers that be. Vote in the general election. Vote for people who are education-friendly. Do they (or did they) have children in public schools? That is my #1 question, and weeds out most running for office.
    Listen, I've been a teacher for more than 30 years. I constantly hear people say "I'm just not into politics." Well, guess what. Tallahassee makes the decisions that govern almost every aspect of our profession. Pay attention, and DO SOMETHING.
    As much as I would love to "just work to the contract", it would be a disservice to the children. I just can't.

  3. The only time Terrie Brady spoke at a SB meeting last year was to assure the board that we would not strike. It used to be in the contract that teachers were not expected to work outside of the workday, but "the most accommodating union in the country" must have removed it.

    Article V, Sec. D has also been unbolded in the new contract. Putting it in bold (like they really meant it!) was all they were willing to do, but now that teachers are well respected again, it's not necessary.

  4. Nobody devalues their profession as much as Florida teachers do. The old adage "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free" springs to mind.

  5. If teachers keep doing what they have been doing, well they will keep on getting what they have been getting. There is no incentive to pay suckers when they are willing to work for free. If we all bond together at least for the short term, and work the contract, say a few weeks, it will send a message. Also, remember your ass is not covered by workman's comp when you are invited to come volunteer at the school this Saturday or Sunday and are injured. Nobody thinks about that, but you are not only working for free, but at your own risk! Finally, stop checking your email during the Summer and after hours, it's unpaid work too!