Tuesday, June 5, 2012

June, July, and August: And Other Common Teaching Myths

1) You only work nine months out of the year and you get paid all year.

Most teachers are on a two-hundred day contract.  They may accept payment over a ten month period or opt to spread the ten month pay over twelve months.  The option is either a smaller monthly paycheck or two months a year without pay.

2) Teachers are over/underpaid.

Assuming the average teacher has a 200-day contract and earns $50,000/year, that comes to $250.00/day.  If a teacher works an 8-hour day and nothing more it works out to around $31.00/hour.  So lets say average teacher hourly pay is $31.00 per hour.  Look at how it compares with a few other professions: (source: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm)
Accountants/Auditors- $33.72
Insurance Underwriters- $ $32.46
Dental Hygenists- $33.54

Twelve month administrative employees probably have about 241 days of expected work. (365 minus weekends and four weeks of vacation)  If the average Superintendent salary is $125,000, that’s over $500/day.  If they work at least twelve hours a day, that makes an hourly wage of $43.00/hour.  At ten hours a day it is over $50.00.

3) Unions make a big difference in the quality of education.

Some states have strong and vibrant unions, others prohibit traditional unionization through right-to-work laws.  Yet even in right-to-work states anti-union rhetoric rears its head. There are enough of both in the United States to make comparisons, and so far, no good evidence to show that unions have much of a positive or negative impact on student learning.  Placing blame on unions diverts attention from the real areas of education in need of change.

4) Those who can’t, teach.

I almost hate even writing that tired clich√©, but even if people don’t say it, they think it.  In order to move up the “ladder” as a teacher, one must take course work and spend time on activities that pull them away from their work in the classroom.  In other professions, competence and mastery results in greater autonomy, benefits, and even promotion.  Teachers may show great competency and mastery for decades and leave the profession with the same amount of respect and authority they started out with.  A more accurate statement would be “those who really want to teach, the ones who don’t eventually get out, one way or the other.”

5) Anyone who can, can teach.

Teaching requires more than a particular knowledge or skill in a given field.  In well respected Universities, the most esteemed academics in a given field share their knowledge with motivated students who have already shown an ability to learn.  Those same esteemed academics may struggle greatly with a group of young students who are lacking an intrinsic motivation for the material.  An excellent instructor with minimal knowledge of biology will get much further with a group of fourteen year-old at risk students than Charles Darwin himself would have unless he developed his skills as a teacher.

Myths aside, I enjoy the weeks I have in the summer to spend time with family and friends, or just to take care of day-to-day things like doctor’s appointments and car oil changes.  I may even spend a little time preparing for the year to come. 

It’s not as easy as some may think, but all-in-all, teaching can be a satisfying and rewarding profession.  In sixteen years, I’ve always looked forward to my time off starting mid-June, but I’ve also been excited as well come the beginning of August when thoughts of a new school year draw near.

Here at the Underground, 2011-2012 came in with a bang, but with 177 days down and three to go, soon it will fade into history.  Thanks to our followers and best summer wishes to all.  We’ll keep posting from time to time this summer and we hope that you’ll keep reading.


  1. Please don't overlook- "Teachers got a 5% raise"...as we will actually take home less money. Not the county's doing...all state leg and Bobby's doing(along with past govs). Thanks for trying to balance the state budget and paying back what you previously borrowed or deferred from the VRS fund with our dime.

  2. Anonymous,
    Give a little context; not everyone will know what you're talking about. New Virginia legislation requires teachers (admins and other educators) to pay 5% of their salary to the Virginia Retirement System now. Apparently there was a deal in the mid-80s in which the employer began picking up the tab in exchange for no salary increase. That was way before my time.

    So they've required counties to give a 5% raise to offset this. Sounds like a wash, but, with a 5% raise, payroll taxes go up. So now you make 5% more, have 5% taken off the top for retirement, and pay taxes on the higher salary.

    And, county government now pays higher payroll taxes and other contributions that are based on salary. It costs employees and county government more.

    Who benefits? The state budget.