Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 14 2010

Off the Clock

The problem with teaching is that you’re not allowed to do most of your job while on the clock. Writing lesson plans, designing activities, analyzing state documents to decide what to teach and prioritize, getting materials, grading work, entering grades into the computer, running detentions or extra help, writing worksheets, formatting worksheets, making photocopies, setting up and cleaning a classroom, making and hanging posters, preparing extension work for kids who finish early, researching or reading to better understand how to teach a subject… it all has to happen in order for teaching to be possible. Then add in meetings and trainings that have to happen in order for keeping my job to be possible.

Now realize that I’m paid from 7:45 to 3:30. I’m teaching students for the vast majority of that time, and while I have kids in the classroom I clearly can’t do anything I listed above. I do have a 40 minute prep period, but that’s usually exactly enough time to format and photocopy a day of worksheets. I work through my lunch every single day. The rest of my to-do list all has to happen on my time. In how many other jobs is it not possible to do your work while you’re working?

I was talking to someone today about how it’s our own fault that teachers get paid so little. I would never ever be able to protest about doing work for no pay. If I worked from 7:45 to 3:30 and did nothing outside of that, it’s my kids who would suffer, and the day that I pick the hourly pay over the students is the day I need to quit anyway. How do we expect to get compensated for our time if we don’t demand it? And who would demand it? It definitely won’t be me… my time sheets regularly clock eleven hours at work, which means no one would ever take me seriously if I threatened to only do work I was paid for. Sigh.

I might not mind being taken advantage of for the good of my students, but I do mind being taken advantage of for no reason. Here’s where my irritation comes in. Because of my advanced math class, I’m considered a gifted strand teacher, which means I have to fill out detailed gifted differentiation forms on each gifted student and attend regular meetings. I hate doing it and don’t even support our gifted program on principle, but they gave me no choice and paid me extra last year. This year, they’ve cut the funding and won’t pay anything, but they still expect me to do the work.

Why can they get away with forcing me to do extra work outside of my contract for free? It’s a shame unions are so weak here. Don’t lie to my face and try to guilt me that it’s for the good of the students… the forms are just legal proof of our compliance that no one even reads, and the meetings never accomplish anything. They are stupid formalities that just need to get done, and somehow it’s okay to make six teachers do involuntarily volunteer work. I’ve given over my entire life to this job, and somehow that makes them feel entitled to my last few minutes of spare time? That’s a lot of nerve.

2 Responses

  1. Wess

    My day today: pulled out of class to open up 55 forms online and change a bunch of 9s to 16s, then change a bunch of 10/20s to 12/14s.

    If I actually felt it were benefiting students, I would feel so much better.

  2. Libby K

    This makes me so grateful that the teachers unions in RI are strong and feisty.

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