Why Teachers Strike?
The list is long for the reason why teachers strike; pay, lack of administration and parent support, lack of respect or benefits. But one thing is consistent in all listed reasons; striking teachers are a huge problem in education, but so are the wages and benefits teachers receive. Teachers spend more time with our children, influence their lives and teach them to be productive citizens in the future yet we pay them less than a non-degree position at an office.
According to Education Week there have been many strikes since 2015. Many of these strikes are prompted by the lack of money and bad benefits teachers receive. Some of these strikes were “sickouts” organized by teachers.
Teachers belong to a union type organization, such as American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association or Association of Texas Professional Educators (there are many organizations). These organizations are there to help protect teachers against administrators, students and parents. Students and parents can accuse a teacher of any inappropriate action and teachers need to have help because they cannot afford a lawyer. Teachers are in a high-risk category for being sued or falsely accused. Administrators will sometimes try to push out older teachers so they can get new and cheaper teachers. These union organizations are there to help protect teachers.
In most states, it is illegal for teachers to strike, but they still do strike. Social media has become second nature to people where nothing is private. This is good and bad in the same situation. Good that more things are being made public and sad that nothing is private anymore. Society has nothing better to do than jump on social media and complain, troll, argue or tell everyone what is going on in their own lives. Because of this social awareness, teachers feel confident in expressing their dissatisfaction pay and benefits.
Oklahoma teachers, Kentucky teachers and Arizona teachers have gone on strike in the past few months. Has their strike resolved anything? Sadly, not really. The only thing that came out was a student getting a long vacation. With parent support and voting for more pay, better benefits and better teaching conditions things will get better for teachers. This will never happen because parents and the government in the United States does not respect teachers.
This lack of respect is very apparent daily. Parents question teachers at every decision from grading papers to assignments. Each parent wants to run what happens in the class and that usually only benefits their child. A teacher is responsible for all students in their class. In one class there may be 10-15 different learning plans and each one must be executed.
The work day for a teacher begins an hour before school starts and an hour after school ends, but this is only if the teacher wants to take work home. Parents complain about homework; that is takes away from family time. Okay, so what about the extra work the parent expects from the teacher?
There are different learning styles in every class. Teachers do their best to accommodate everyone, but when a student has an IEP, Individual Education Plan, it must be followed by law. This becomes a feat when you have several different IEP in one class! I once had 10 different IEP in one class and they all had to be seated near the teacher. I do not sit and often walk around the class and the way my room was arranged, there was no front of the class. I asked how I was to accommodate this IEP and was told to always spend more time near these students, but I suggested they follow me like baby ducks. Administration did not see the humor. Here is an example of IEP accommodation; Parent A has a child that can only have multiple-choice answers on their test/quiz. Parent B has a child that also must have multiple-choice questions, but can only have 3 questions. Then Parent C has a child that can only have 2 answers to choose from per question and it must be delivered orally plus the student gets extra time. Then there are the gifted students in the class. Parent D has a child that is gifted and must be challenged, so they are given a test that is short answer. For ONE test, look at how many different types of tests the teacher must create. This will take about 2-3 hours to create. Yes, that long and I speak from experience! This work takes time away from my family even if I stay after school and finish them.
Why not do all this work during your off time, the off period? That time is only 35-55 minutes and is often taken up doing the paperwork administration requires or covering someone’s class. Teachers have a difficult job and I am often amazed that anyone enters into the profession. If student teachers knew what all teaching required, I am positive that nobody would finish and enter into teaching. We lie to these poor student teachers and get them hooked into teaching so they put up with all the grading, demanding parents and demanding administrators. The truth is that teachers teach because they love it. We like being able to help students discover their learning passion and look forward to their success.
Teaching In Other Countries
Teacher pay needs to raise because of the workload, what they are charged with, and what they have to deal with. South Dakota has the lowest paid teachers in the United States; $42,668. A receptionist with only a high school diploma can make more than that and this is sad. The best-paid teachers in the world can be found in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany and Korea. Their education system produces the most productive citizens than any others and maybe this is because they pay the people who spend the most time with their children like they deserve that pay. These countries also respect teachers and not many parents try to backseat teach.
Experienced teachers are valued for their experience, unlike how they are treated in the United States. Many experienced teachers often seek employment in other countries. Many companies such as ARAMCO, CIEE Teach Abroad and the Fulbright International Educational Exchange Program, will help teachers and people who want to become teachers get started educating in other countries. One piece of advice; read the fine print and talk to teachers already teaching abroad.
The issue of striking teachers will only be resolved when teachers are valued. This value must be reflected in pay, benefits and respect. It should not matter what state the teacher is in, all states should value educators who are responsible for teaching our future citizens that will be taking care of us in our elder years and running our country. Remember this the next time you speak to your child’s teacher.