Thank you, Sarah Stevenson Krejci, for putting this into words – the value of teachers. And yes, please share.
Sarah Stevenson Krejci has been teaching for 23 years. 22 years in Kindergarten and first grade, and one year in third grade. She teaches at Ruth Grimes Elementary in the Colton Joint Unified School District. She lives in Bloomington, California with her husband of 22 years and her 3 children, age 20, 17 and 14. She has 2 dogs and 4 cats, all rescues and foundlings. She has a Masters in Education, in Curriculum and Instruction. When not teaching she enjoys reading, binging Netflix, and watching her children grow up. Connect with her on Facebook, or on Twitter @MrsK1971.
Dear American People,
As a teacher I was trained to teach your child academic material. I was trained to teach your child to read, to write, to do arithmetic, science and to understand history and social studies. Over the past 23 years that I have been teaching, more and more responsibilities have been given to teachers that do not fall into the realm of teaching academics. I wonder if you really know what exactly your child’s teacher does or how our profession works.
The Value of Teachers in Days
First of all, teachers are paid for a specific number of days. I, for instance, am contracted for 185 per school year. Some have the option of having their salary spread out over 12 month, but that does not mean we are being paid for 52 weeks of service… only 37. Some teachers do not have that option and end up saving money for their off months, or working summer jobs to make it through the months when they are not in the classroom.
How do I spend my breaks? Doing things I do not have time to do when school is in session AND preparing for the next school year. I spend my summer preparing photocopy books for my students to read. I prepare everything for the next year so that when the school year begins, I can give 100% to students I have not even met yet. This summer I am preparing for digital learning no matter what the school district decides about the 2020-2021 school year.
The Value of Teachers in Hours
Second, teachers are contracted for a certain amount of time each day that they work. My contract is for 7.25 hours a day. Only 45 minutes of that time is designated as time for preparation. How many teachers actually work exactly that many hours? My guess is not many. Many teachers come to school early or stay late on a daily basis. Many take work home every night and every weekend. That is time that is not paid for.
Let’s discuss what must happen in that 45 minutes of “uninterrupted prep time”: All lesson planning for the week, all grading, all preparing for the actual lessons, report cards, calls to parents, answering emails. This list could go on and on. Whether this time is before school or afterschool, there are always meetings with parents who have questions or concerns to be addressed when they drop off or pick up their students. Basically it is impossible to complete all this work in 225 minutes a week. So teachers work off the clock. It is expected of us.
The Value of Teachers in their “Job Description”
Teachers are not only teachers now. They are expected to be counselors in the classroom and deal with socio-emotional needs of children. We now teach socio-emotional lessons in class. We were not trained as counselors. Many districts have full time counselors at the secondary level. Elementary schools share their counselors with other schools.
We become intervention specialists. We are on the front lines in the diagnosis of children with learning disorders or disabilities. Psychologists are assigned to two or three schools at a time. We become speech teachers, as students in need of services to not get seen but maybe once or twice a week because speech therapists are assigned to two or three schools each.
What do I do on a daily basis besides teach my kindergarten class academics? I tie shoes. I hand out bandaids. I feel foreheads to see if there is a fever. I remind children to wash their hands. I walk entire classes to the restroom for a break, a loss of instructional of time of about 15-20 each time. I teach the students how to get through a lunch and hold their trays and say their whole name. This takes place on my duty free lunch break.
During flu epidemics, I squirt hand sanitizer into little hands and wipe tables, pencils and scissors with disinfectant wipes. I comfort the cryers. I assess injuries to see if all they need is a kiss (I kiss the top of my finger and touch the booboo) to make it better or more from the office. I counsel parents and listen to their struggles and let them know they are not alone in the world of parenting.
I assess and reassess students to make sure they are mastering concepts. I cheer for successes and improvements. I make children believe they can learn and accomplish anything. I keep one eye on my window at all times, being aware of what is going on outside my classroom. I teach students to be safe in case of fire, earthquakes and GOD FORBID, active shooters. All of these things on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis.
The Value of Teachers to Society
Society consistently underfunds education. Walk into any classroom and you will see decorations, books, stickers and the like. Pretty much anything beyond the furniture, curriculum and basic technology is provided and funded by the teachers. Some schools supply basic school supplies, but some do not. There is not a teacher out there who hasn’t provided pencils, crayons, or paper to students. At the beginning of my career, I spent about $1000 annually on my class; about a 3% of my annual salary. And not all of that is tax deductible.
Teachers provide not only for their classes, but for students as well. I have purchased coats, shoes and food for students. I have paid off lunch accounts. I have sewn limbs back on well-loved stuffie friends at my at-home doll hospital and repaired doll seams as well because that well-loved friend helps them keep their anxiety down in class.
I have taken home sweaters and fixed holes because I knew that was the only sweater the child had and if it was ruined and thrown away, the child would not have a new one. I do this because I love each and every child I have worked with, not only the ones in my class, but any students that have crossed my path. All kids at my school are my kids, not only the ones in my class. I love their families as if they were my own.
Budgets have been cut time and time again, raising class sizes, decreasing custodial and support staff. And who is expected to make up the differences? The teachers. We are expected to supply what is lacking whether in time, supplies, or work. In my district the only custodial care guaranteed everyday is having the trash removed. Sinks are not washed daily. Tables are not washed regularly. Carpets are not vacuumed every day. Floors (except the cafeteria) are not cleaned daily. Bathrooms are not maintained regularly (student bathrooms are better than the staff restrooms). Calls to the office requesting restroom supplies occur several times a week.
So society expects teachers to provide for their students with their own money, with their own time. We, as teachers are expected to be selfless and giving. When we ask for raises or for supplies society can not believe that we would do that and considers us selfish.
And teachers do it time and time again. They give and give and give because it is the right thing to do. It is right to make sure a five year old has a pencil. It is right to make sure that the class has hand soap. It is right to take time to give a student extra help or counsel a parent.
The Value of Teachers in Quarantine
In March of 2020 schools closed with virtually no notice. Overnight teachers all over the country became online learning specialists. We were not trained for this. It had never happened before. And yet teachers all over the country did it. They learned new technology. They learned new platforms for learning. Many bought technology they could use at home. I personally had to upgrade my internet and have purchased a document camera.
Before March 2020, I had never done a video call. I had never used google classroom. I never recorded or uploaded a lesson to the internet before. And not once in the last 9 weeks of school did I say I can’t do this. Not once did I say too bad I don’t have what I need. I learned these skills and worked long hours, 12 to 14 hours as day, to create video lessons and was available to parents at all waking hours.
Teachers all over the country rose to the occasion and did everything they possibly could to continue to educate society’s youth. Was it an ideal situation? No. There is not one teacher who said “HEY THIS IS THE BEST WAY TO TEACH EVER!” There is not one teacher who does not want to go back into the classroom to teach their students.
Schools and districts did everything they possibly could to help make Distance Learning successful. Districts handed out chromebooks, and hotspots to help students access the internet. Other districts passed out packets and school supplies to help students. Districts provided free meals for ALL children under 18, not just students.
The Value of Teachers Doing Distance Learning
Teachers have been blamed for the “failure” of distance learning. What is said about distance learning and why it did not work? My child would not do the work. We could not figure out google classroom or whatever platform was used. It was too hard. It was too hard to work with all my different age children. Parents are not trained as teachers. My child refuses to go to online classes. And I must ask, how are these comments teacher failures?
We are in a technological age where people can figure out social media and watch YouTube and streaming services and yet, people could not figure out google classroom. Could not or would not? Society is blaming schools and teachers for a failure that should rest on the shoulders of parenting skills. Teachers are blamed for the lack of work completed, not parents. Teachers are blamed for students not logging in, not parents. As if it is the teachers’ responsibility to go to the child’s house and make them participate.
The Value of Teachers’ Lives
But as the beginning of school approaches, society is not asking us to pay for our profession with money or time or supplies. We are potentially asking to pay for being teachers with our lives. We are being asked to come back to a potentially deadly situation for ourselves or loved ones, knowing full well that there will not be hand soap, or hand sanitizer; knowing full well that if we want those things we will have to supply them ourselves (Yes, I already have supplies on hand).
We know masks and gloves will not be provided by the district but by ourselves. We know full well that we will be cleaning the tables multiple times daily with our own cleaning supplies. We understand that social distancing in a school setting is almost impossible. There is not room in a class for 24-36 desks to be 6 feet apart. There are not enough classrooms or enough teachers to reduce class sizes to make social distancing possible. We would need twice as much of everything to make it work.
Any model of reopening still creates cross contamination of students. AM/PM model? Will the class be sanitized in between? The teacher is still exposed to a full class. Staggered groups with students attending only a few days a week and distance learning on the others? Again will all classes be adequately cleaned between groups.There is no way to take 600+ students’ temperatures at the beginning of the day. And yet, any teacher speaking against returning to school is being labeled as selfish and not wanting to do their job.
And that takes us back to the beginning of this letter. What is our job? How much are we expected to do to raise society’s children? What are schools really for? Are they to educate society’s youth or just to babysit. I hear all the time about how much people love their teachers but I really question that now when our lives are on the line. When I hear about how people don’t want their children to wear masks or have a vaccine, I wonder if they really value the teachers. Do they want their children to be educated or just babysitted? Is society really going to sacrifice teachers for public opinion?
Now is the time to prove you value your teachers. Show your appreciation by valuing their life. Show that you love them by respecting their opinion about going back into the classroom. Teachers will still be educating your children, we just are asking that you as parents, take on the responsibility of making them complete their work. Teachers are willing to work with you to make this work for you and your family. We understand you have work schedules and times when you can work with your children might be different than other families.