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The Year of the Teacher

I was sitting at our local coffee shop Higher Grounds the other day and overheard two women discussing education. My ears first perked up when one woman said to the other something about how teachers only work nine months out of the year. I turned around in my seat to see who was spreading such disinformation. A few minutes later though, she dropped the bombshell: “teachers are the biggest bunch of whiners. All they do is complain about their pay.” I had to turn around in my seat again so I could shoot her my Look of Incredulity. I came close to getting up and talking with her about how long teachers really do work and why they might have just cause to complain about their pay. Then I thought better of it, and wondered what the deeper problem is here. People must not t have a clue what our teachers are doing with their time. They don’t have a clear picture of the daily issues that teachers deal with, nor the sheer amount of time put in to preparing to be in front of a class.

So I thought I would try to correct some of that fake news we’re all hearing these days. First of all, the teachers I know do not work their contract hours. They are coming in early to prepare for the day and staying late to grade. Others are going directly to coach a sport, and then maybe home to do some grading. The teachers I know are in trainings in the summer, or attending competitions with their students. They are working second jobs in the summer – and yes they do work more than 9 months of the year.

I’m flabbergasted that people choose not to believe the statistics that are in their faces! Oklahoma teachers have the lowest rate of pay in this region, and are 48th in the nation for teacher pay, according to the National Center for Education Statistics! How can we continue to make excuses for that instead of owning it and making our teachers a priority?

We are dealing with a serious teacher shortage in our state, and Putnam City is no different. Our leaders are constantly looking for ways we can retain the great teachers we have in the face of declining revenue from the state. When are we going to make education a priority?

Surely people can see the connection between a strong classroom teacher, his or her pay, and the learning that takes place in that classroom. Just like in the private sector, you have to pay for quality people or they are more likely to leave for better paying jobs with fewer responsibilities. When are we going to make our children a priority?

I say NOW! Let 2017 be the Year of the Teacher in Oklahoma. Let it be the year we finally own up to our responsibilities as a state, not to mention the constitution of this state, and provide a fair salary for the women and men who dedicate their lives to our children. And they are our children- every last one of them has the chance to impact the lives of other Oklahomans for better or worse. Let 2017 be the year we give our teachers, and therefore our children, the chance to be a positive impact on Oklahoma. They deserve no less.

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