THE PAPER researched the profession of teacher, drawing data from survey responses of a sample of Dana’s own teachers as well as outside professional studies. The overall purpose of this investigative report is to examine teachers’ obligations, and to provide insight to the student body as to what our teachers do for their job besides lecture.
Though their most observable role is educating, teachers are also appointed watchkeepers. As district employees, they are mandated reporters of abuse of students. According to the California Department of Education’s official website, “All persons who are mandated reporters are required, by law, to report all known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. It is not the job of the mandated reporter to determine whether the allegations are valid. If child abuse or neglect is reasonably suspected or if a pupil shares information with a mandated reporter leading him/her to believe abuse or neglect has taken place, the report must be made.”
To make a report, an employee must contact a local law enforcement or child welfare agency, including a Police or Sheriff’s Department, County Probation Department, or a County Welfare Department/County Child Protective Services. Reports are supposed to be made immediately over the phone and followed up in writing. Seventy-three percent of the teachers surveyed reported that they have acted in the capacity of mandated reporter at some point in their career, 33% more than once.
86% of teachers surveyed said that students frequently come to them with personal matters.
A teacher’s legal obligation is not satisfied by making a report of the incident to a supervisor or to the school. Failure to report is a misdemeanor, meaning a teacher can face up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
Teachers are also required to report any evidence of illegal student drug use, including alcohol consumption, to administration.
Teachers also frequently fulfill the role of sports coach. Of Dana’s twenty-two head coaches, ten are current academic teachers. Six more are assistant coaches. According to the teachers sampled, involvement in a sports team requires takes seven to thirty hours weekly.
There are seventy-two clubs on campus. A club cannot be formed without a teacher as an advisor. No teacher can be advisor to more than two clubs, meaning at the very minimum 40% of all teachers at Dana are club advisors.
The position of teacher is innately predisposed to lending itself to roles besides academic educator. Eighty-six percent of teachers surveyed said that students frequently (daily, weekly, etc.) come to them with personal matters, meaning anything non-academic, i.e. family hardships, trouble with friends, anything relating to a student’s emotionality as opposed to their education. One teacher stated that multiple students have looked to her as a mother figure because their own mothers are not physically or emotionally present, seeking advice and emotional support from her, directly or indirectly, when they have her as a teacher, after they finish her class, and/or following life after graduation.
Essentially, in addition to preparing lessons, grading (on average, teachers spend 5.03-11.6 hours grading every week), attending department meetings, meetings with administration, fulfilling the accommodations of Individual Educational Plans (IEP) students and meeting with parents of IEP students, teachers fill roles as protectors of minors, law-enforcers, extracurricular advisors, coaches, and confidants.
According to California’s Department of Education, the average beginning teacher annual salary, in a unified school district, is $45,000. The average midrange teacher annual salary is $68,000. The average highest teacher annual salary is $92,000. This means that on the spectrum of government employees, a teacher’s salary is closer to a bus driver’s ($31,000) than to a university coach’s ($1.81 million).
According to the National Education Association (NEA), “Inflation has eroded most of teachers’ salary increases: Over the past decade, the average classroom teacher salary has increased 15.2% but after adjusting for inflation, the average salary has actually decreased by $1,823 or 3.0%. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) notes that comparable professionals with similar education earn higher salaries. Nationally, teachers earn 19% less than similarly skilled and educated professionals. This ‘teaching penalty’ has increased significantly in the past 20 years – from approximately 2% in 1994 to 19% in 2017.”
Every member of the sample stated that their students are their favorite part of their job.
The NEA further clarifies that though teachers have summer off, they are only paid for the days they are contracted to work, so they spend those summers working second jobs. Many also teach summer school and take classes for certification renewal or to advance their careers. Those who work in the private sector generally receive training on company time, at company expense. If a teacher wants to become qualified to teach new courses, they must earn the necessary certifications on their own time.
Lastly, “while seven hours is the contracted workday, teachers must do significant amounts of work such as grading papers and revising lesson plans on their own time, after school, and on weekends. As classes become larger and school districts change curriculums, this becomes more arduous. Teachers are often not compensated for before or after school bus duty and other similar responsibilities. Stipends for coaching or advising clubs are modest at best.”
One teacher responded to the question as to whether or not they supplement their income: “Realistically all of us do to some degree unless we married rich or have help.”
Teachers described a variety of quandaries related to time as the most frustrating element of their job, including meetings that feel unnecessary, spending time on initiatives that do not directly impact their students, time lost teaching to disciplining disruptive students, insufficient time to accomplish everything to the level of quality they desire, the need to rush their work, in addition to difficulties getting students to engage. Several expressed frustrations over the nature of their interactions with parents and with the value that both parents and students place upon grades rather than learning. Also expressed was the desire for increased funding. One teacher stated, “The world would be a better place if education received all the funding it needs and the government had to hold a bake sale to build a bomber.”
Every member of the sample stated stated that their students––watching them become excited about the class material, teaching them relevant life skills, seeing them grasp concepts they struggle with––are their favorite part of their job.