November 21, 2018

How to talk turkey about teaching at the Thanksgiving table

Source:  NYSUT Communications
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Ah, Thanksgiving, that time of year when family gathers around the table and that one uncle starts bashing unions, while your annoying cousin complains teachers are paid too much.

Sure, you can scream silently while you pick at your stuffing.

But here are a few comebacks you can try when you're hit with those crazy comments about unions and education.


Q: The problem with unions is they make it impossible to get rid of bad teachers. They have a job for life!

A: You’re talking about tenure, right? It’s been part of state law for 100 years, and it doesn’t mean a job for life. In fact, it doesn’t protect bad teachers. Tenure — which teachers have to earn, by the way — simply means a teacher can’t be terminated without just cause and a fair hearing.


Q: Why do teachers always complain about test scores? Shouldn’t they be judged on the performance of their students?

A: Teachers teach because they want students to grow. But using a score from a single state test to determine a teacher’s job performance is as crazy as it is unfair. Why should a teacher in the Bronx be judged the same way as a teacher in Scarsdale or Saranac Lake? Their students face completely different challenges. Teachers should be judged on multiple measures determined at the local level — not by some random state test.


Q: The taxes in this state are crazy, high teacher salaries are big reason why!

A: High? The average teacher salary in this state is $66,000 — even though teachers are among the most educated professionals in today’s workforce. Their job requires a master’s degree, passage of state exams and continual training just to keep their licenses. The fact is the average teacher salary is far below what the corporate world pays for jobs requiring the same, or less, professional training. By the way, teachers are taxpayers too. But we know that strong teachers mean strong schools, which is good for the whole community.


Q: Must be nice to get paid for doing nothing all summer!

A: The only ones who have summers off are students. Teachers spend their summers working second jobs, teaching summer school, and attending training programs to remain certified or advance their careers. They also spend summer writing new curriculum, mentoring new teachers in their district and attending meetings at their schools. That’s all work, by the way, they are basically doing for free since teachers are only paid for the days they are contracted to work during the school year. That’s hardly having the summer off.

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