Friday, November 4, 2011
Magic on 71 cents a day......
I am an instructor at a county Tech school. I am a teacher. It’s what I do. My job is to prepare high school seniors for life, give them skills to earn a living, and teach them how to be productive citizens. That’s my job, my career, and my calling.
I get paid to do my job. I get paid well, but not quite as well as my compensation would be if I had stayed in my industry. In fact, when I began teaching I took a $5,000 a year pay cut to do it. Most of my fellow technical instructors are in the same boat. To do this job, they first had a successful career in their field, and then followed the calling to teach what they love. There’s not one of us who could not return to industry and earn more than we do now.
My salary is determined by a contract. As a Tech school instructor in this county, I get paid an average of the comparable teachers at the 16 public schools who send us students. Whatever they pay their instructors, a simple bit of math is done and my compensation will be an average of that. If the average county school gives their teachers a raise, I get a raise. If the average county school freezes their instructors pay, I get a pay freeze. I don’t ask for raises, nor does our contract specify raises. I get what I get, and each year its a surprise.
My salary is paid by the people of this county, and it comes from their taxes. I am acutely aware of this, and consider it a pact. They pay me from money earned by hard work, and in return I give them hard work to the best of my ability. Each year for the past ten, I have worked five weeks for free at my school, as have most of my fellow instructors. We come in early and we stay late. We pinch pennies till they scream, selling scrap in order to buy shop supplies. My desk came from a junk pile destined for disposal; it’s not some fancy hand made piece of work. The computer I work with each day is so antiquated, my cell phone is more powerful. My students are working on vehicles that I personally bought, because we simply don’t have as many as I think they should. I get a class budget of 71 cents per student per school day, and I make it enough. On this meager budget, we run programs so good that other schools, even other nations, send their people here to see how we make it happen.
I don't wear a tie. I don't have an office, a handmade desk, or a well paid secretary. I don't have a leather swivel chair, an expense account, or a school credit card. I don't have a school bought smart phone, a laptop computer, not even a coffee pot at my disposal. What I do have is 50 students, a classroom, a good lab, and 71 cents a day per kid.... and the will to work miracles with it.
What do the taxpayers get for their money? Well... that is the real question, isn’t it? In a word.... they get results. My school has the highest attendance rates in the county, and the highest graduation rates. In the last ten years of teaching, starting each year with 50 students, I can count the number of failed students on one hand... with fingers left over. My program sees former students come back weekly, sometimes daily, to share their stories of success (I’m not alone in this at my school). In this county, it’s nearly impossible to get your car repaired, your hair cut, your pets treated, your cavities filled, stay at the hospital, or build a home without running into one of our students. Our students are in every college level tech school in the state, and every car dealership in this county. Each year we send students to national competitions, and they win. Each year we not only ace our NOCTI test scores, we typically run 25% above the state average. Each year sees our students jump several grade levels in math and literacy, above and beyond learning lob skills for life.
What the taxpayers get in return for our pay is very simple. They get better lives for their children. Don’t trust my word.... go ask them. It should be easy... our students are everywhere in this county. We graduate over 1000 every year.
I can’t speak for all schools, all teachers, and all situations. I can only speak towards what I do, and where I do it. I teach for Lancaster County Career and Technical Center, and it’s the finest tech school in this state. I can speak of my fellow instructors, and they are hands down the finest, most knowledgeable, and most dedicated people I have worked with in my life. I can speak of my students.... and without reservation say I have the best students in this county.
I can say this too; I earn every penny I make, and I work hard to do it. I don’t ask for more, nor do I ask for a break or a hand out. I’m happy to accept an averaged paycheck and in return give back an above average return. I’m happy with this because it’s the right thing to do. Work hard, give everything you have, and get paid what you are worth. No more. and no less. It’s all I ask and I’m proud to do this job.