The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

Why So Much Hostility?

Earlier this week, in our district and some others in the area, there were local bond elections. Some passed, some were defeated. My policy is always the same. I hope our community gets out to vote so our collective voice is heard. I encourage true debate, and respect the outcome and decision of the voters. For us, our bonds did not pass. The debate has ended, the voters have spoken, and it is time to get back to work.

I try to understand perspectives, and believe I have a grasp on the debate on local taxation. Some are opponents of public debt, others vote based on their personal budgets. Some are supporters of local government and see property taxes as an investment in the value of their homes. As voters go to the ballot box, I believe I understand both sides of the issue.

What I don’t understand, and have a genuine curiosity about, are the statements made against educators. There are passionate views on both sides of a debate in any election, and those who are on the victorious side should celebrate. However, after the last election, comments have been made such as “nicely done, way to show those teachers!” or “teachers and administrators are corrupt.” More comments include “maybe they could work a real day” or “cut the people at the top, they don’t do the real work.”

What makes our nation great is that everyone is entitled to hold and express their own opinion. As an educator, it is my job to be a role model and work to the best of my ability to understand the perspective of others. This viewpoint leads me to ask “why” those who make statements such as “where can I sign the petition against incompetent, overpaid administrators” feel the way they do.

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2 thoughts on “Why So Much Hostility?

  1. Why so much hostility? I think there are a number of reasons. As I’ve become more involved in our schools, I’ve become more supportive, but there are still things that can rile me up. I’m going to list a number of things below. A few are reflective of my views, but most are passed on from fellow parents and community members. Don’t shoot the messenger! I’ve also included some suggestions to counter them.

    1) “Schools don’t spend money wisely!” This is one I hear the most. “Too much money goes to retiree pensions and healthcare so current programs are getting cut.” “If teachers didn’t have gold-plated healthcare, we could afford Smart Boards.” “If they didn’t spend money on Smart Boards, they could fix the roof.” Budgets need to be visible and explained. If some costs seem exorbitant, detail why they are so high.

    2) “Schools spend money on the wrong things!” I hear this a lot too. “If we cut money for the media center, we wouldn’t have pay-to-play athletics.” “If we cut money for athletics, we could have more academic programs.” Everyone has priorities and they are all different. Not everyone will be satisfied. Get community input, display it, and respond to it.

    3) “Teachers are lazy!” Everyone’s heard this one. “They work 170 days a year, from 9 AM to 4 PM.” “They get summers off!” “They retire after 25 years, but I have to put in over 40!” I recommend teachers provide their schedule to parents at the beginning of the year, including their prep time during the evening hours, summertime, etc. under the guise of promoting communication since teachers often are on email after hours.

    4) “Teachers are overpaid!” I’m sure everyone has heard this too. “How come they got raises, when my job got a pay cut?” “Why do they have a pension still?” “All that money for nine months work?” “Why is their health insurance so much better than mine?” Honestly, from a non-teacher’s perspective, those comparisons of a teacher’s salary to other professionals doesn’t work. Taylor Mali’s piece “What do Teachers Make?” doesn’t either. For many people, government workers from senators down to city workers make too much. The money for government salaries is more directly taken via mandatory taxes. Also, everyone can cite some tenured teacher they feel is grossly overpaid for shoddy teaching, but often ignore the excellent teacher that is grossly underpaid for great work. This will always be an issue and will be worse when private sector workers are getting pay and benefit cuts and have houses that are underwater. They will feel that they can’t afford more taxes right now for anything. I don’t have any good suggestions here since many of these people won’t be satisfied even if teachers are paid based on performance.

    It’s still tough economic times right now for most people. Asking for education money right now will unfortunately increase tensions between the community and the schools. The best thing schools can do is communicate, communicate, communicate.
    * Be open and honest about budgets, salaries, health care, pensions. Be honest, not defensive.
    * Publish your calendars with the days you are in school before the year begins and after it ends and your typical daily schedule so parents have an idea of your working hours.
    * Be very responsive to parents. A parent that feels shut out will not be on your side when you need something. Get them involved in the classroom.
    * Get the community involved in events with open houses, seminars on various subjects, and visible student service projects.

    The more involved you are with parents and the community, the more communication you provide to them, the more likely they will see the hard work you do and be more inclined to look favorably on a justified tax increase. They will also become your defenders when others complain about money being misspent or teachers being lazy and overpaid.

    As I said above, please don’t read these as my personal views, but a reference on what I’ve heard.

  2. Tim Johnson on said:

    I’m no teacher or real adult yet, but I can related to Joshua’s reply especially the second point from my high school years. I was in the band and it wasn’t funded like everyone would like, while it felt the football team, which was not the best at all, was getting new coaches and equipment every five minutes. Growing up a little, I understand that the school did the best it could. I believe no one should be barking at teachers or try to say they’re overpaid. Teachers watch not only your kid, but a hundred others. I was an average teenager and I wasn’t always easy to get along with. If I had to teach a hundred kids like me back in the day, I would definitely ask for more.

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