There are many misunderstandings about what it means to be an educator. I love my job as a high school Economics teacher. I switched from being an attorney in Prescott for fourteen years to become an educator. Every educator has a different set of challenges, here are mine.
First, I work hard. I average over sixty hours of work per week, and that is conservative. I arrive at around 6:15 AM and I typically leave around 5:00 PM. During that time, I am constantly working. I manage to pee three times a day. During lunch I have students in my classroom. I have a worthwhile after-school club called Unity Club in which students volunteer to help tutor students who may need the help.
I am there for my students. Most days, in order to be ready for class, and to grade whatever assignments need grading, I am up at 3:00 AM. I am usually asleep before 7:30 PM.
I have been working this hard for the last three years. In fact, I am spending more time on my job this year than I have the previous two. If you ask most educators what they could use more of, most would say time.
The main reason for this use of my time is my class sizes are increasing. My average class size is now 33.1 students, with two classes of 35 students. Through a strange circumstance, I am teaching six classes this semester. That means I am responsible for 199 students, not counting extracurricular clubs, and student instructors.
I provide all of my own technology. I use a hot spot on my phone, I use my own computer, iPad, and iPhone. I use my own projector after finding three separate district-provided projectors unacceptable. I pay for my own computer applications and for my online subscriptions. I provide my own lecture desk and chair, again because equipment supplied by the district is unacceptably poor quality. All of the posters, markers, lined paper, and many other small items are also provided at my expense.
For the past couple of summers, I am typically either taking a professional development course, or helping teach such a course. I am also working on my Master’s Degree in Economic Education and Entrepreneurship. Last summer and this summer, I spent less than a week where I was not in class. During most of those days (and even when I have class), I am working on planning for the upcoming year. There are changes that have to made to slide decks, assignments, exams, and various lessons and simulations.
For those who argue that teachers are paid enough, I can point to the above facts and say that I am NOT earning enough money for my time. If I divide my salary by the number of hours that I work (figuring 60 hours per week), I am grossing somewhere around $16/hour (about 65¢ per student per day). Unfortunately that does not take into account the thousands of dollars that I spend on my classroom, or the taxes that I pay on that amount. In reality, my pay is too close to minimum wage.
I know that my efforts are achieving results based on how my students perform on the Advanced Placement examinations. For the past two years, my students have earned an average of slightly more than 4.3 out of 5 on both Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, and over a 90% pass rate.
My teaching job is harder than my job as an attorney. While I was an attorney in Prescott, I tried many cases, and represented many clients. Yet serving as an educator is even harder. I would welcome any of our Arizona legislators or our Governor to shadow me for a day or two. Perhaps they will have a new appreciation for how much educators contribute to the well-being of Arizona children and their families.
Educators need more than increased pay. We need smaller class sizes and better technology too. We need more support staff (including site administrators). Perhaps I can write about the need for smaller class sizes, more support staff and better technology in subsequent posts.