Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How much is a teacher worth?

(This is a rerun of a note I posted on Myspace in October, 2006, back when I was a schoolteacher. It's even more relevant today than it was back then. Oh, and it turns out that my $45,000 figure was almost right on, for the state of Colorado in 2006.)

Okay, let's do a math problem here.

Let's say that the average teacher makes $45,000 a year. (That's probably a little off, but let's go with it.)

Now, that teacher has to work 182 days out of the year. Maybe 7 of those days are non-student-contact days, which takes us down to 175 days spent with students. That means a teacher makes, um $257.14 per teaching day. Or, to look at it another way, the taxpayers pay a teacher $257.14 a day to teach their kids. (Did everybody follow that?)

Good! Now, a typical teacher sees 80 to 100 students a day. Mrs. D. sees 96 students in three class periods. I see 83 students in three class periods. Let's use 90 as a (very) rough average. Divide a teacher's daily pay, $257.14, by 90 students. You should get $2.86.

That's right, two dollars and eighty-six cents. That's how much the taxpayers pay teachers to teach one student for between 60 and 90 minutes.

1. My own students make more money than that per hour, babysitting.
2. At those kinds of wages, why would anyone ever consider teaching as a profession?
3. Those of us who teach do it for more than the money. You kids are a BIG part of why we teach.
4. Now you know why some teachers are so crabby. You would be too, if that's all you got paid for dealing with the crap some kids throw at them ('scuse the expression).
5. Teacher pay is a highly visible measure of the value, or lack thereof, that the American taxpayer puts on education.
6. Any adult who votes down a local school district funding proposal is either very selfish, or has sawdust for brains. Do the math, grown-ups!

Some people say, "Well yeah, but teachers get the summer off, and two weeks at Christmas, and spring break, and so on." Most teachers work another job or take additional college courses, required to keep their teaching license, during their "summer off." And most teachers spend "spring break" at home, grading projects and getting ready for the final few weeks of school. The kids come back from vacation with stories about Cancun, Hawaii and Europe, and the teachers smile warmly and choke down their envy.

I love my students, and they love me. Many teachers aren't as fortunate as I am. For whatever reason, they don't get the affection, the gratitude and the non-monetary paybacks that I've gotten. If you want to make a teacher's day, pick one of the less popular ones and say something nice (like "thanks") to him or her. If enough of you do it, you might just make up for the lousy pay.

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