Education has many 800 pound gorillas, elephants in the room, and barrels full of monkeys. One can say that it is a regular zoo.
1. Teacher Pay
I believe that the biggest elephant in the room is the lack of adequate pay for our nation’s teachers. This past year, teachers from Oklahoma, Arizona, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Colorado, walked out of the classroom to protest low wages. It is growing increasing difficult for teachers to be able to afford to stay financially afloat on their current pay structures. The National Center for Education Statistics said that in 2016-17, the estimated average salary for K-12 teachers was $58,064. That’s $58,064 after four years of college and, for most, 1-2 years of graduate school. That’s the average. Keep in mind that some starting teacher salaries are in the low $30,000 range. The argument that teachers don’t work in the summer and are off by 3pm needs to stop. Most teachers get to work before 8am and work well beyond 3pm. They work summers, weekends, and holidays. They deserve a wage that is reflective of the important work they do. Recently, I saw a commercial for UBER where a teacher drove at night for extra pay. Teachers should not be subjected to needing to take a second job to make ends meet.
- Classroom Resources
Walk into some classrooms across the country and you are essentially stepping back in time. There are some classrooms that are outfitted with the latest and greatest technologies, materials, and curriculum. I call these classrooms, Pinterest Classrooms, as they are frequently featured on social media. However, many students walk into classrooms each morning that have materials from the 1980s and 1990s. The curriculum hasn’t been updated since the early 2000s. In order to improve our educational system, we must invest in updating our classrooms to meet the current needs of our students, not the needs of students who wore acid-washed jeans and too much hair spray.
As a parent, I have enough trouble making sure that my two children are doing what they are supposed to be doing. As a principal, I frequently overheard parents telling their children’s teachers that they didn’t know how they survived everyday with 25-30 students in their rooms. Now, try to imagine 25-30 students with all different needs, areas of strengths and growth, as well as learning styles. Yes, we all want each and every student to perform at or above their grade level’s performance standards. Let me tell you, it’s not that easy. I believe that our nation’s teachers are up to the challenge, but we need to acknowledge that this is no easy feat.
- Red Tape
Most non-educators don’t understand the bureaucracy of school systems. School districts are plagued with out-of-date policies and systems. A simple field trip or low-level purchase can require five different approval signatures. While it is important that public funding is spent appropriately and that there is accurate oversight, I can tell you from experience that spending money on students can be a frustrating process even when done properly. We need to stop making it so difficult for educators to get what they need in order for their students to be successful.
- Lack of Respect
Would you every think to argue with your child’s dentist about how their teeth were cleaned? How about your child’s pediatrician? No, probably not. However, everyday, teachers are questioned, accused of negligence and inexperience, and threatened with legal action. The teaching profession should be as respected as other professions. After all, who do you think is teaching all those future dentists, doctors, lawyers, and scientists?
Dr. David Franklin, CEO of The Principal’s Desk, is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at http://www.principalsdesk.org.