Unions and Collective Bargaining (Take Three)

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Cerek, Mar 14, 2011.

  1. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    (continuing the discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of unions and collective bargaining).

    I brought this post over from the previous thread because I think it addresses two of the core reasons teachers tend to get so much blame and so little sympathy from the media, politicians and members of the general public at times

    Since teaching has traditionally been done by women, I think it is often viewed as an "easy" job. Comparing teachers to cops and firefighters is like comparing airline pilots to stewardesses. Most people are going to feel the pilot has the more difficult job, even though the stewardess (or flight attendant) is the one that has to deal 100+ different personalities during the flight and try to keep ALL of them satisfied.

    I also think the fact that everyone has been in the classroom for several years themselves makes them feel qualified to judge how easy (or difficult) a job teaching really is. That is like the comparison to a play mentioned in the other thread, however, because all most people see in the classroom is the final result. They don't see the hours spent behind the scenes making sure everything runs smoothly once the bell rings.

    The final factor (not mentioned in the previous thread) is the fact that teachers "get the summer off". Again, the general public doesn't see that many teachers have to work a second job during the summer to help make ends meet and often must continue working that second job (or another one) part-time during the school year. They also don't see the time spent by teachers working IN their classrooms during the summer to get ready for the upcoming year.

    Nope. All they see is a "3 month vacation", which means teaching is just that much more of a "cushy" job.
     
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  3. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    As a male teacher I will readily admit my job is not as physically demanding or dangerous as that of a police officer or fireman.

    I would also admit that when I make a call to one of those services I'd rather not have a 58 year old who has been on the job for 35 years show up. In teaching, quite the opposite. Public safety workers deserve to taken care of at an earlier time in life than we teachers do. If that makes it sound like I'm admitting to having a cushy job - so be it.

    At age 41 I will max out on our district scale at (currently) $110,000 for 178 contracted days of work. I'm not going to complain.

    That said, I have no problem with the union existing. I have a problem with my state taking money out of my paycheck directly to pay the union which I resigned from three years ago. If like-minded workers want to peaceably assemble go right ahead - that's your first ammendment right. But if non-like-minded workers want no part of it where's our part of the first ammendment?
     
  4. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I totally agree with you here, but then you should have to negotiate your own contract. Contract negotiations are incredibly time consuming and expensive. I know my last district (actually whole state) went to fair share (paying a portion of the union fee whether or not you are in it) because even if you don't want to be a member of the union, you still benefit from the contract. I don't think you should be FORCED to pay the Fair Share, but if you accept the union negotiated contract, I think you should have to pay it.
     
  5. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Having been in the military and also having been a teacher, I think I can comment on the comparison being made.

    My military job - aircrew on transport planes - was far easier than being a first grade teacher. The physical demands were about the same, just in different durations. In the Air Force, I'd work my rear end off for two hours and 15 minutes, and then sit on that same rear end for the next 8 to 10 hours. As a teacher, I work my butt off for about 6 hours every day and then just plain work for another two or three.

    But the mental demands were no comparison. Sure, there were stressful and sometimes dangerous situations in the Air Force. I've been shot at. But even during those very busy 2 hours before the plane took off, if somebody asked me a question, I could at least have a few seconds to think about a correct response. I could even look up the answer if I needed to.

    As a teacher, you have no such luxury. Mentally, you are pushed to your limits every moment you are teaching. Think about how many split second decisions you have to make every day. Every time you respond to the kid who talked out, asked to go to the restroom, or got up without permission, or didn't have a pencil, you make a decision - do I give him a pencil, or have him sit there and do nothing? Do I let her go to the restroom or have her wait until recess? Each decision has a consequence. And you probably make hundreds of those decisions every day and have little or no time to reflect on them. And you constantly have to make these decisions all the while teaching and engaging, seamless lesson.

    Cops and firefighters do not face this kind of stress. They have to be ready to go into instant decision mode, but they are not in it all the time.

    And that, my friends, is why we are so wiped out at 3:00 each day.
     
  6. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Sarge, you really have a valuable perspective here, and I wonder if you've ever been given the opportunity to speak to anyone, from the public to legislators, etc. The fact that you've had a career outside of the classroom and can accurately compare is invaluable. It would hard to level a critique of "complaining" against you when you've also been in a profession that gets no accusations of complaining at all. Leaves the opposition speechless.
     
  7. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I would agree with all of these things. I think there are other variables, but I would agree with these things.

    Another variable, and I may get some disagreement here, is that there have been times when it has been an easy job for some. Here's what I mean: there are some teachers out there that give out worksheets as lessons, leave at 2:30, and ride on lesson plans from 1994. The fact that one technically can do that in some schools - even if they end up being a bad teacher - also adds to that claim. It's easy to look at the worst case examples in a situation and cry foul.

    The same thing happens across society - take race for example. One historic stereotype about the African-American population has been that they are more prone to crime that others. Part of how this has been caused is that more salient examples that would appear to confirm this stereotype are broadcast more often than non-examples. So, we turn on the news and see that a Black man caused a crime, which leads some to the perspective that Black people are more prone to crime. The extreme examples set public perception.

    Or, take the fundamentalist church that protests soldiers' funerals. While they may share some theological similarities with other conservative churches, most conservative churches are not as extreme as that church. However, I would venture to say that when someone sees that story on the news, their view of Baptist churches broadly goes down. Again, the extreme examples set public perception.

    I'm not saying that these viewpoints are right - clearly, people are stereotyped and judged based on the behavior of a few. I'm also not saying the "bad apples" out there are the only thing causing a negative opinion of teachers - much is caused externally. However, I do think it's one variable.
     
  8. pete2770

    pete2770 Comrade

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    My father was in a shoot out, and killed a man.

    He had someone pee on him from the back of the squad car and throw fices at him (before they switched to the glass).

    In the jail he had to fight with inmates every day.

    Take your worst kid, put enough years behind him to make him a strong adult, fill him with intoxicants, multiply him by a few thousand, and that's your daily class as a police officer.

    You're working with people every day that hate you (even the ones that call the cops often times hate you).

    I don't think the stress of being a teacher comes close to that of being a cop. At least a cop in a major city.

    It's apples and oranges.
     
  9. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I think difficulty is more than just the decibel level someone shouts at you, and more than the physical danger you go through. I don't want to say that teacher's jobs are more difficult that those of police officers, because I've never been a police officer, but the jobs of police officers and teachers can't be reduced to just how much you have to put up with. If that were the case, I'd agree with you. Hands down. Easy. Yes, I've been peed on, punched, cussed at, etc., but it's nothing like what a police faces on a daily basis.

    To me, what should matter in terms of "difficulty" is the degree of effort, skill, talent, endurance, etc. it takes to complete the task at hand. Police officers aren't responsible for teaching those they arrest, and they aren't in charge of improving their behavior.

    If you measured the talent, skill, training, and endurance required to complete the task at hand for a teacher vs. a police officer, I'm honestly not sure what job would be considered the most difficult. But, I wouldn't automatically vote police officer. I do know the job of a teacher is pretty tough.
     
  10. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Depending on your school, teachers face many of these same threats in the classroom. Teachers regularly deal with students who hate them. I know of one teacher who (during her student teaching semester) had a high school student bring a loaded gun to her classroom. When I was student teaching, the resource officer of my high school had to restrain a furious guardian of one of my students who was threatening me because I gave a student a C on a daily assignment. Both of these events occurred in the same low-crime school in a sleepy rural town in the South. I can't imagine what it would be like in an inner city school.

    In such situations, teachers are often defenseless and have no way of protecting themselves. I know I would be incapable of defending myself if I were physically attacked by a student. If I did defend myself, I would probably be sued by an angry parent.

    And I agree with the other poster about different ways of measuring difficulty. When I walk out of the school building at the end of the day, my job is far from done. It's hard to draw clear lines between "work time" and "family time." I spend hours at home grading, lesson planning and reading up on educational research. This is different from most other jobs (even very stressful jobs), and it adds a very different kind of stress.
     
  11. Auter12

    Auter12 Comrade

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    Obviously, there are different levels of stress with different jobs (whether teacher, firefighter, or police officer). I have to agree with pete - apples to oranges (to some extent). Yes, SOME teachers do go into work on a daily basis at risk; however, this is not the norm. Police officers and firefighters may not be "on" their entire shifts, but I am pretty sure that I would not want to have to have a weapon at-the-ready for even part of my job or go into a burning/collapsing building. Also, their benefits should accomodate for that; I wouldn't want the average 50+ year old trying to save my life, but I know a lot of 50+ teachers who are doing great as such.

    One more thing:
    The federal government doesn't have collective bargaining for it's union employees BECAUSE it wouldn't be able to afford all the benefits. This is now just being brought down to the state level because the states (ie. Wisconsin) are broke!
     
  12. Major

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    Cerek, I quickly scanned the posts in this thread.... I can't find any discussion about "Unions and Collective Bargaining."
     
  13. Auter12

    Auter12 Comrade

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    This thread is a spill over of another (I believe). Wisconsin is taking away collective bargaining rights from every state employee, except police and fire; that's where this thread picks up.
    lol, I had to refresh my knowledge to follow this thread, too
     
  14. pete2770

    pete2770 Comrade

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    I shouldn't have said a cop's job is more stressful.

    I just wanted to convey that you can't compare fire/police to teachers effectively.

    They're completely different jobs on the mental and physical side both.
     
  15. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I am not an accountant, auditor, or finance manager for any state, so I don't know for sure, but what is being reported now is that this just isn't true. The shortfalls in Wisconsin's budget do not necessitate this. Unfortunately, some legislators are using the budget to legislate. They don't want the programs so they cut them under the pretense of the budget. I am not doubting most states are struggling with their budgets but I do question the amount of cuts and WHAT is being cut, especially when those cuts, as mentioned before, seem to affect women and children the most.
     
  16. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Ohhhhh, okay, I agree with that. It's a difficult comparison because the KINDS of difficulties people in those positions deal with are so distinct.
     
  17. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Definitely fair statements!
     
  18. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I agree with the "everyone has been in a classroom" thing. People think they're experts because they've been in school. I was actually discussing this with a non-teacher friend the other day who unfortunately has the "teachers are the problem" perspective. Although she acknowledges that I work hard, she thinks I am the "exception." I've heard this a lot of other places too- anyone that happens to know a teacher that works hard assumes they're just the exception. Well how many exceptions can there be? Anyway, she was going on about how she thinks its so "offensive" that teachers assume non-teachers don't know anything about teaching, and to say that would be saying she was completely ignorant and oblivious for the 16 years she spent in school. She said she obviously realizes that we have students all day and have to do things like grading, planning, and conferences after school hours- but that is our fault because we knew that going into the profession and went into it anyway. She mentioned that she's never heard a teacher say something about work and then said "wow I didn't know that was part of a teacher's job." I think this perspective is very popular among non-teachers. Of course I don't go around talking about RtI and specifics to IEP meetings, collaboration, unwrapping standards legal stuff, etc- because my non-teacher friends wouldn't know what I was talking about! I'm fully willing to admit that I can't judge how difficult other professions are since I haven't worked in them. I see plenty of cops sitting along roads with their cars facing each other chatting- do I get to just assume that they sit around doing nothing all day? I wish people would just give teachers the same basic respect.

    The summer definitely ties into it to- but as cerek mentioned many people have to take 2nd jobs in the summer. Since there aren't a whole lot of "professional" jobs available for just 2 months, many teachers have to take low paying or even minimum wage jobs for the summer. I'd sure like to get paid to teach year around rather than taking a job that pays 7 bucks an hour this summer- but I don't really get that choice. I don't see summers off as a "benefit." I will agree that teachers do get more time off than anyone else. I don't think anyone can argue that. However, our salaries reflect that. It's not like we're just getting "free" time off. We have lower salaries than pretty much any other professional.
     
  19. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Then you might find this interesting ...

    This is the compensation for an E-3 in the military (for those who don't know, that's a private first class or equivilant) with less than two years of service, married, living off base.

    Base Pay = 1838
    Housing Allowance for the Sacramento area = 1578
    Food allowance = 325

    $3741 Per Month (30 days vacation per year)

    New Teacher in my school district

    $39586 Per year. Divided by 11 months (to compensate for summers off) = $3599 per month.

    I've been teaching for 18 years. My pay is about $100 more an E-6 with 18 years. If you have a pulse, you can make E-6 in that amount of time. With any degree of ambition, an enlisted member can make E-7 (sergeant first class, master sergeant, chief petty officer) in that amount of time, which would have the GI earning about $300 a month more than the teacher.
     
  20. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    The "Summers Off" is just too simplistic an argument. It's the first line of defense thrown out by critics who then act as if the argument is irrefutable proof teachers have it "easier" than people with regular jobs.

    Putting aside the fact many teachers DO have to work second (and sometimes third) jobs during the summer, let's examine the argument more realistically.

    First - how many hours do teachers actually put in per week? We have the standard school day plus the hours we work at home each week planning lessons, grading papers, researching materials, projects, writing prompts, topics for discussion, etc. Add in the rotation of morning, lunch, hall and afternoon duty and I'm estimating teachers work about 55 hours per week (if not more).

    I know other jobs often involve long and late hours as well. Accountants and lawyers often work very late nights preparing for tax season or an upcoming case, but they also get PAID (very well) for each of those extra hours. I used to work in Purchasing, so I know that Corporate Sales Representatives often work late at night preparing reports and catching up on the volumes of paperwork they don't have time to do while on the road during the day, but again, these Sales Reps are very well compensated for the extra hours they put in. Now the amount of compensation is entirely dependent upon them, but the more hours they put in, the more successful they will be and the more money they will make. CEO's often put in horrendous hours, but they also get paid obscene amounts of money for their extra time.

    Teachers are most like middle level managers. Those jobs also require extra hours that are not always paid, because the manager has a salary instead of an hourly wage, but as always, their average hourly pay is still higher than a teachers. It's also true most of these other careers don't get the same amount of time off as teachers, but many of them get much better work benefits to compensate.

    There IS one career, however, that does resemble teaching in many ways. It requires a great deal of mental labor and (often) lots of planning, long hours and business meetings after regular hours. Benefits are outstanding (for the most part), but this is offset by constant criticism from those who think the person isn't doing their job right (even though most critics have never worked in the field) and a great deal of stress from various sources. Every move made and action taken by those in this industry is scrutinized for any hint of laziness or wrongdoing and it can often be a coworker you thought could be trusted that will be the first one to put you on the firing line. Of course, those in this field also enjoy a tremendous amount of "vacation time" from their jobs, very similar to the amount of time that teachers get off throughout the year (for summer and holidays).

    So, what is this job that shares so many of the factors found in education? POLITICS, of course. :p The very ones that often yell "teachers have it easy" the loudest.

    Fair enough. How about you just give me the same working conditions, benefit package, paid vacation time and - above all - SALARY as politicians get and we'll call it even?

    What's that? I didn't think so. :rolleyes:
     
  21. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I think one variable that is being neglected a lot in recent conversation about compensation, benefits, etc. is the enjoyment and fulfillment one gets from their job. Sounds overly simplistic, but I don't think compensation can be reduced to financially valued goods. I'm all for arguing for better pay for teachers, and I'm all for calling out the contradictions in arguments such as the similarities that teachers and politicians might feel. However, I personally would never be happy as a politician, traveling salesman, attorney, or doctor. Part of my compensation package is the privilege of changing lives in the way that I do, and that is worth more to me than any benefits package I can think of.

    I guess my point is that it can be helpful to take a step back in the midst of all the problems and realize that we actually are very lucky to do what we do because we have the privilege of doing some of the most important work on the planet. While bills need to be paid, student loans repaid, and dinners eaten, nothing will ever compare to the true rewards of the job.

    When it comes to public discussions such as these, and ones that might be had with politicians, I agree that seeming complacent and happy might send the wrong message - that we don't feel like conditions should change. Individually, or in the privacy of our own lives, though, I think we can never lose sight of how lucky we really are.

    Yes, educators aren't paid enough, and yes - the joy of teaching is often significantly challenged by unfair working conditions - agreed on all counts. However, there are educators who - despite these circumstances - continue to feel blessed and honored to do what they do and love it, and those are the teachers who are truly winning, because they're happy. Maybe not happy with everything, but when all the chips are counted, they come out ahead.

    If we're to truly "win" and be happy, by all means we should work for change; but, we should also never lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal might already be well within our reach - the happiness and satisfaction that comes from knowing we made a difference in our children's lives.
     
  22. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I don't know that I can truly agree with this. While I do find the job rewarding, I think there are just as many stressful and/or heartbreaking moments that we have to carry with us. For every kid who thanks me or I 'gets' something or I help succeed at something, I feel like there are 2 more who I find out are abused, in foster care, can't afford more clothes, is living with her BF because her parents kicked her out, is going to juvi... I wouldn't say the job is inherently rewarding - I would say it is an emotional roller coaster. At least, that's my perspective.
     
  23. luludc

    luludc Rookie

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    I agree.
     
  24. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

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    Absolutely agree...WI Governor Walker gave out some tax cuts to corporate interests, then came over to the public employees asking, no, demanding concessions to help balance the budgets by nearly the same amount he gave away in tax cuts.

    When the public unions agreed to the financial concessions he said, no, that's not enough, you gotta give up collective bargaining rights. That's like cutting your own throat, and then, it isn't about financial issues, it's an ideological and power matter. Which was confirmed when Walker and the legislature did an end-around and put the elimination of collective bargaining into a non-fiscal bill and rammed it through the legislature to get around the quorum requirement for passing fiscal bills (remember, the Democrats had decamped to protest the elimination of collective bargaining rights in the budget bill).
     
  25. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    A few thoughts here. First of all, I think one of the biggest issues at hand is the fact that the things that were enjoyable about teaching are rapidly being taken away from us. Instead of inspiring children to enjoy learning and challenging them to excel academically, we are increasingly being told to teach from a scripted curriculum and follow a pacing guide. At many schools, they want the classes to look more like Kaplan test prep than anything else.

    It seems they are doing more and more to increase the stress level. At my school, we are accountable for "instructional minutes" and under an imperative to basically be directly teaching every minute of the day and whatever we do must support a language arts or math objective. My "radical new schedule" I posted a while back that suggested an all day, year round schedule was, in part, to relive some of this stress by extending the amount of time both kids and teachers are together at school. More and more, I feel like my job is simply to squeeze as much learning as possible into as little time as possible.
     
  26. TeacherGroupie

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    Mar 15, 2011

    There's a place for a Kaplan-y model, maybe - but day-to-day education isn't it.
     
  27. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    I would absolutely love to negotiate my own contract. They can have back my 10 personal days I never use and don't want, I can get out of the mandatory health care pool, and I can actually be paid according to my ability and not my time in office. Sign me up.

    In my state I don't have a choice. I have to accept the union contract or not work in a public school.

    Beyond that, there is no way it costs 700$/teacher for negotiations alone yet that is what I pay for the honor of being subject to the contract. Police unions charge less than $300/yr for full membership and I'm paying double and a half for non-membership? How is that right?
     
  28. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    EdEd,
    I was gonna make the exact same comment, but I did not want to derail this thread once again. There is much more to teaching compensation than monetary. What EdEd above illustrated (personally satisfying) is a prime example. Having summers off is another example.

    Being able to have your summer off is a tremendous perk. It pays teaching professionals something that very few jobs offer employees: freedom. For 2-3 months of the year, teachers are allowed to do pretty much whatever they want. It's very hard to quantify.

    But when teachers are challenged on this point, they talk about how many have to "work a second job", or cite the hours they spend working during the school year, etc.

    This all plays into the perception we have from the general public IMO.
     
  29. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    I really have to take issue with this. For a great majority of teachers, summers off is not "freedom". I don't personally know many teachers who don't work in the summer, especially teachers low on the salary scale (ie...less than 15 years experience). This is so true in my district because we have not had a salary or step increase in five years. I think the notion of teachers resting and relaxing for a couple of months between school years is long gone. It has been replaced by mandatory professional development, working to put food on the table, planning for the next year, etc. I would take a leap here and state that most teachers work just as many, if not more, hours during their "freedom' time as they do during the school year.
     
  30. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I really think it's a person to person thing. I know many people who still have a lot of time off in the summer and who don't work. My most recent districts have required about 2 weeks of PD, but most happens in August right before school.

    I agree that having summer off is not a luxury for all, but having the option to take it off is a perk that some/many do take advantage of.
     
  31. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I totally agree with you. You should be given the option to negotiate your own contract, or take the union contract but even then you shouldn't have to pay full dues. I think "fair share" in my last school was maybe half.
     
  32. Cerek

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    Having to work a 2nd job is not the same as "doing pretty much whatever you want". It just means that many teachers don't have to work both jobs at the same time. Last summer, I worked two Summer Camps while continuing to work at the hotel on the weekends.

    During the school year, I have my current teaching position (part time), 21st Century Learning Center program (usually 2-2.5 hours after school at least 4 days a week), hotel desk clerk on the weekends and subbing for coworkers during morning classes (mine start after lunch) and doing substitute bus driving (either right after school or on field trips).

    So I work a minimum of 3 part-time jobs and sometimes I'm at school from 7:30am - 5:30pm. With my hotel job, it isn't unusual for me to work 3-4 weeks[/i] without a single day off.

    During the summer? The schedule does ease up a bit, but it is still a far cry from just kicking back and soaking rays every day.

    Now I don't know how many other teachers are in similar situations, but I'm sure there are many. Most members here have mentioned at least some form of extra work they do during the summer.

    So, yes, when people "challenge" us about having Summers off, we DO mention the fact that is NOT the case for many teachers. Ergo, the argument is not as valid as it appears.
     
  33. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    Mar 15, 2011

    Here we go again...
     
  34. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Mar 15, 2011

    Yup! :D
     
  35. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    Mar 16, 2011

    When my BF gives me a hard time for having summers off, I just say "when you are at work, and you have to go to the bathroom, what do you do?" - "I go, obviously." "Yeah, and that's why I get summers off." :)
     

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