Children rise early to eat breakfast, get dressed and board buses, trains, and cars. They arrive at school with fresh crayons, crisp paper and pressed shirts. This is happening almost every day, all across the nation: the first day of school. However, many children, particularly in Washington state, are not going back to school yet. It is unknown when they will be back. They are not sick, tired, or unprepared for beginning their education. In fact it is their teachers that are unprepared, but by no fault of theirs.
In Seattle, teachers are striking for the first time in 30 years. Last time, in 1985, the strike lasted 25 days. According to the New York Times, the strike was organized after negotiations did not work out, concerning pay and staffing issues. Lawmakers are mandating the school day be extended by 20- and they were not planning on paying teachers for the extra 20 minutes of instructional time. Over the Sept. 12 weekend, the union said “not enough” pay was offered for the extra 20 minutes. Read more here and here about the Seattle strikes.
Similar issues have arisen in Pasco, Washington, where teachers have been striking for two weeks due to lack of curriculum and class size issues. An agreement was made between the union and the school district on Sept. 13. Students will begin school on Sept. 15 for lower levels and Sept. 16 for high school, two weeks later than anticipated. Read more about the Pasco strikes here and here.
These teacher strikes bring to light the many faults in our broken educational system. Teachers are without curriculum, supplies and the proper support to do their jobs. Legislature like No Child Left Behind and Common Core aligned national education standards for each grade. However, how to get to those standards was left blank. Idaho’s standards can be found here. Imagine that you flip hamburgers at a burger joint. Your only job is to flip the burgers and clean the grill. After a few days, your boss tells you that you are expected to raise the cows to provide the meat. You are also expected to slaughter the cows, and grind the meat for burgers. You had to do this on your own time, without pay or help from your employer. This is what is happening when teachers do not have curriculum to meet the new standards in Math and English Literature and Literacy. Teachers are expected to come up with all the tools and supplies they need to teach to the standards, without any support or pay. A student at Garfield High School in Seattle, WA, told ABC News reporters about supply shortages. “‘Last year, we ran out of paper,” he said. “The paper budget was gone and teachers couldn’t print stuff anymore. They don’t have enough money.’” Read more about one teacher’s experience with Common Core, and the creation of Common Core.
On top of all these issues doing their jobs, teachers also have to overcome the still persistent gender gap in the world of education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “some 76 percent of public school teachers were female.” This clear imbalance is seen not only in statistics but also in the social views of educators. A study was done with children to see how they view male and female careers. With photos of men and women doing identical jobs, children picked out the men’s version as having higher status than the woman. Median pay for an elementary school teacher is between $40,000 and $50,000 a year. Women outside of teaching have watched their pay increase by 25% since 1970. Female teachers have not experienced such an increase.
When women began to enter the workforce in 1960, there were limited options. Teaching was favorable, they had the same schedule as their children and the flexibility to take time off and still re-enter the workforce at the same level. This is still true today, but these early beginnings of women in the workforce seem to have cultivated an idea that teaching was only suited for women. Personally, I have watched several male friends toy with the idea of education. Originally, my high school friend Jack* wanted to teach preschool or kindergarten. Children flocked to Jack, it seemed like the perfect career for him. But as he did his research, Jack realized how difficult it would be to work in a female dominated field. He decided to teach high school instead, where the gender gap in teachers is a little less severe. 85% of primary education teachers are female, versus 61% at the secondary level. And after being patronized and teased in his college education classes, Jack had enough. He is now pursuing a business degree. This does not even touch on the racial inequalities in teaching, outlined in the chart below. Between lack of pay, support, inequalities in race and gender, wouldn’t you be on the picket lines too?
|The percentage of men teachers – 2013|
(men & women)
(men & women)
(men & women)
Continue reading about why men do not pursue teaching.