Senior Conor Courtney, whose mother is a teacher, breaks down some misconceptions in regards to teachers’ salary. Many would believe their pay is more than enough, but he says otherwise.
To the man who yelled “go back to work” at the teachers on strike at Roosevelt,
My mom has been teaching ever since she was 21 years old. Over the past four decades she‘s taught everywhere from a rural, one-room schoolhouse in Vermont, to Seattle’s Northwest School at its start in the 1980s. While she currently teaches in the Northshore School District, which is not on strike, she shares many of the same issues as the teachers who are on strike in the Seattle School District.
My mom gets up at around 5am each day to prepare for the upcoming school day. She spends her whole day with classes of 30 or more students, and many of the classes have special needs students who need more attention than she can give them. After spending 8 grueling hours at school, she spends another hour to help the students struggling with their work after school. She then comes home, and has about one precious hour for dinner, and then we begin the homework ritual.
In my living room, there are two adjacent couches. Ever since I began high school, five days a week, we both sit on these couches, and do our homework together. I get home from my ultimate frisbee practices around the same time she does from work, and so we end up starting homework together at around 7pm; I’m doing my high school homework while she’s grading her students’ papers and planning her lessons.
During my junior year, I started to notice more and more how much pressure and stress was on my mom. Junior year was supposedly my hardest academic year at Roosevelt. AP U. S. History, notorious for its “key terms“, and many other responsibilities weigh down on Juniors‘ shoulders just as much as their textbooks do. Her workload may not be abnormal, but that fact that she isn’t compensated for helping her students succeed is absurd.
The current teachers strike has thrown into sharp relief the hardships that teachers face. My mom teaches because she loves it and everyday, she says “our job is to teach children so that they have happy, successful lives, and that seems to be a pretty important job. We have all been motivated by one, two or many teachers to be where we are today, so why shouldn’t we fairly compensate them for all the extra work we do to help them succeed? Why can’t parents, who entrust their children, from the ages of 5-18, to the public school system fight harder for teachers to actually want to teach their kids?
One of the demands of the teachers is more pay. I’ve heard enough people say “teachers are paid enough” that it makes me feel sick. Here are some statistics straight off of the SPS website:
A beginning teacher with both a bachelors and masters degree earns about $50,000 a year.
Now this may seems like a decent starting salary, and it is until you break down the numbers. Teachers are contracted for around an 8 hour work day. This is equivalent of coming to school at 7:30 and staying until 3:30, and the hourly wage (the yearly pay divided by 180 school days times 8 hours a day) boils down to about $35 an hour.
However many teachers, like my mom, don’t stick to just this. If you account grading, staying at school late to help struggling students, many teachers work a 10-12 hour day. If we do the math again, we get that a starting teacher gets between $23 and $27 an hour.
Now if a teacher was compensated for this extra time they put in outside of school to help their students succeed, a starting teacher would get between $63,000 and $75,600 a year, the latter of which is roughly equivalent to what a teacher who has been working for the 15 years is getting now.
Not only is this pay not nearly enough, Seattle teachers have to pay for housing in one of the most expensive places to live in America. On top of that, they haven’t gotten a cost of living raise (when salaries adjust to the cost of living) in 6 years, even though the cost of living has increased by 8.5 percent in that time.
It’s not that teachers don’t enjoy helping their students: my mom still grades papers and writes notes to kids with suggestions on how to do better on tests. However, the fact of the matter is that teachers need to be paid for the amount of time they put in to help students succeed.
As the number of graduates who apply to become teachers drop, and their pay doesn’t increase, it’s time to demand more from the school district. Teachers have one of the most important jobs there is; helping students grow academically and as people. So why can’t we compensate them fairly? Why is it that teachers give everything to their students and not get treated with the respect that a mentor deserves?
As much as I love being able to ask my mom for help on a math problem, spending every night on the couch doing homework with her, as much as our friends say its a cute tradition, as much as she loves being there for her students, the school district needs to be there for her. After all, it was teachers who helped the school district officials into the jobs they have today.
Featured Photo: As much as teachers appreciate the gesture, an apple can’t feed their families. Photo by Ruby Hale