- The Student-Teaching Model Is Outdated: Here's How We Can Do Better - September 15, 2021
- Visualize: How Seeing What's Coming Changed My Teaching - August 16, 2021
- 10 Lessons About Teaching from My Youngest Son - June 24, 2021
- Ending the Epithet “Try-Hard” Once and for All in Classrooms - June 18, 2021
- From STEM, Let's Pivot to the BRANCHES of the Humanities - May 25, 2021
- Would Education Collapse If Teachers Stopped Working for Free? - May 20, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part II - April 21, 2021
- 8 Tips So Your Substitute Plans Don't Suck - April 14, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part I - March 12, 2021
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers: Habit 3 - First Things First - February 26, 2021
Benjamin Franklin is often attributed to saying “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” The dividends from the investment in American education are long-lasting and truly have changed humankind’s bottom line. From the far-flung 1776 idea that people could govern themselves in a republic to the 21st century one of tying us entirely together using the Internet, American knowledge has produced an unrivaled return on investment. But that has and continues to produce (pocket) change as education, and those involved in it, reaches a breaking point.
As a teacher, I and a huge majority of my colleagues are consumed by the school year. Gone are the antiquated days where we’d simply work 8 hours in a day or “have off June, July, and August.” The amount of tasks thrown our way don’t just grow each year, they multiply. There are initiatives that have to be met on national, state, and local levels. The tie to standards and testing consumes our pedagogy. There continues to be more special education students, documentation, and dissection. We’re supposed to raise test scores, increase the amount of essays we assign (and, thus, grade), and contact home more. Many of us are coaches or advisers as well, and those demands are being dialed back, either. We keep adding students of all stripes and more classes to teach – while the time on the clock and most of our salaries remains the same.
As an administrator, these demands can be best viewed by accessing their email. In a single day, 100+ emails are a common occurrence. Supporting staff members’ needs, answering questions that nobody seems to know how to properly phrase, dealing with student behavior, their parents’ questions (and demands), and then answering to the district office can be taxing enough. Then, if they’re crazy enough to want to actually try to do things better at their school, step out of their office and into classrooms, handle lunch duties, or interview additional staff (as the turnover continues to increase), the days become 12 hours of work.
That is very much the same at the district office level, too. These people are left to disseminate the fallout from pinched budgets, health care changes and costs, school board expectations, new state and national laws, handling more and more paperwork and discipline as we become a field dominated by human resources and constant meetings, they often find themselves working on and through the weekend.
School board directors, at least in Pennsylvania for that matter, are volunteers who practically work 40 hour weeks at their “job” for free. With the amount of committees and time spent budgeting, balancing funds, deciding what needs to be constructed and what needs to be closed, who needs to be hired and who needs to be furloughed is quite a taxing thing. And, as the common member of the community reaches out to them, trying to hold the line on growing school (mostly property) taxes.
The cost of educating students is certainly met with copious amounts of discussion, discernment, and disagreement by elected officials at all levels. Education is, in most states, the largest budget item. The cost of ensuring all students have the best public education possible has never been a cheap one, but in these days of budget shortfalls, cutbacks, pension underfunding, and growth in expenses, the demands on accountability – both for money and for improvement – grow with each school day.
While 75% of parents are satisfied with their child’s education, gone are the days where one of the parents would be able to stay home and help with the homework or add more knowledge to the teachers’ lessons. Many parents themselves, while trying to make ends meet or fulfill the obligations of their job, are pouring themselves into their career or additional jobs can come at the expense of their family.
Others – both parents and non-parents – in the community will argue (and with valid reasoning) that taxes have reached a breaking point. In Pennsylvania, where we use property taxes to pay for schools, who should lose their home that they’ve paid off because they cannot afford property taxes?
Students, most of all, are also at a breaking point. More children are coming from broken or fragmented homes, and a child who can’t go home to love will find difficulty learning. Those who are fortunate enough to not feel so fractured often are as busy as the other stakeholders on this list. After 8 hours in school, most are involved in something else, whether a sport, a hobby, a job, taking care of other family members, or a combination of those variables. In addition, the average student has about 12 hours of homework a week, as teachers – meeting requirements for testing – are pushing to cover more material and standards in the same or often less time. And this is while trying to still be kids.
With so little left to give by almost every stakeholder in education, it’s important to wonder (and better to try to solve) the investment in education. We need to continue to produce interest, lest we just continue to pay upon principle. While Benjamin Franklin is also one to say "a penny saved is a penny earned," what would he say about the cost of public education today?