I was just informed that my pay was being cut 3% for next year. The vote of the school board in regards to the issue of cutting my salary was unanimous. Budget issues. Belt tightening. Everyone taking one for the team.
Things is, I kinda get it. I mean we are facing huge budget issues, folks everywhere are tightening their belts and if everyone doesn’t chip in a little, then there is no way to make up for the fiscal shortfall and keep our schools running.
But the question is, do I get to work 3% less hard because I am being paid 3% less salary? Are my duties diminished by 3%? Will the effort expected of me be reduced 3%? Instead of grading 100% of my students’ papers next year, am I allowed to only grade 97% of them and say, “Sorry… budget cuts.”
Of course not. And why? Because at the end of the day my salary has almost no relationship to my duties or expected performance. They exist in 2 totally different areas of my professional world. I don’t work according to how much I am paid for my work. The compensation I earn is the compensation I earn, as determined by Lynwood Unified, and the effort I expend as a professional educator is the effort I choose to expend, dependent, at the end of the day, on my own willingness to lay it on the line.
Like most employees in most tax-payer financed jobs, I can choose to be a minimum threshold type of worker whereby I simply get my tasks accomplished or I can can work at trying to be the best I can be at my job. (And as we all know, the latter category is much less populated in any profession… not just teaching. Matter of fact, I’d argue that percentage-wise, more teachers try to be their best than say post office employees, DMV counter folks, city hall secretaries — not to cast aspersions.)
But really, as a teacher, I can loaf it, worksheet my way through the lame textbooks I am provided, follow a scripted program as dictated by our “curriculum specialists” and simply do all the things I am told to do, follow all the rules, give all the tests, take all the attendance and poof… do my job while being able to say, “Hey, this is what you just paid me to do.”
Of course, real teachers only know one speed at which to work: they give their best. Some days are better than others, some days are fraught with calamity where lesson plans implode, kids seems to have come from Planet Sugar (or Planet Sleep Deprivation or Planet Head-Up-Their-Butts — hey, they are a lot of different planets from which teens can arrive) and so on… but real teachers go to work and think about a zillion other things NOT related to their compensation each day.
They innovate. They accelerate. They mediate and they over-compensate. And they do it back and forth all day long.
I think about my paycheck maybe 1 or 2 times a month, and even then, the time for this is fleeting. The rest of my time, I think about how I can be more effective. And the more effective I am, the better I feel because I know my kids are being better served.
But do I equate my own effectiveness with accelerated compensation? Naw. And do I feel like I owe less to my kids next year because I will be paid less? Naw. And if merit pay is put into place, do I have another gear to hit, another club in my bag I have been holding back because I really can reach deeper… if you tempt me with more cash, that is?
I am already pedal to the metal. And will be next year even though I will be earning less money for doing so. That’s just the nature of the beast.