Teachers Fighting False Perceptions

History of Teachers StrikingOver the last few weeks I continue to have the same thought. Teachers if they are going to ever get the respect they deserve are going to have to get pro-active in changing the public’s view of them and the work they do. My original thought was that a national leader would have to emerge that would coordinate nationwide teacher strikes so that communities could learn what would happen if people stopped deciding to be teachers. Then this morning I came across a story out of Livonia. It is reported that teachers there decided to hold a “grade in” sort of event at a local mall. The purpose of this event was to demonstrate to the public that a teacher’s work day does not end at 3 PM.

It might be hard for people within the education field to grasp but the general public has been convinced that the professional life of a teacher is far to easy for the compensation that they receive. To a large group of voters out there teacher work six hours a day, have way to many paid vacation days, and are being set up with a retirement that will allow for world traveling and non-stop golf on the local country club course. Worse it is a perception that because other average workers in this economy have lost wages, benefits, and retirement monies that teachers must also lose these things. It seems to me that instead of being down on what other workers are getting maybe these upset workers could use the pay and benefits teachers receive to negotiate better terms from their employers.

While a nation wide demonstration to educate the general public about how hard teachers work might take a bit more time I would encourage local groups of teachers to come up more creative ideas like Erika Rebbe in Livonia did this week.

Erika expected 50 teachers to show up for the “grade-in” she organized Thursday evening at Laurel Park Place mall, but more than 120 came. Rebbe, a Livonia teacher, brought 120 copies of a flier with “talking points” to hand out to teachers as they came in to the mall, but within just a few minutes of the grade-in starting, she had none left. And many teachers were sharing, she said. “This was very successful,” she said, adding she plans to organize more.

Several Livonia teachers who attended the grade-in said they work 50 to 60 hours per week during the school year, grading papers and planning lessons late into the evening. During their time off for holidays and during the summer, they often take classes or workshops to keep their certification or to improve their knowledge base, they said. They have to pay for their graduate-level classes out of their own pockets. Many also pay for supplies for their classrooms.

If all this sounds familiar it should Across the country teachers are finally starting to get fed up with being the scape goat for state budgets falling short. Unless teachers start to get organized and start changing their public perception they can expect to continue to be asked for concessions reducing their pay.

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