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  • Writer's pictureDonna Gerard

August Madness: A Parable About Taking Advantage of Teachers

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

It’s August. Teachers are busy buying things to turn the four walls of their classrooms into inviting realms of learning for their students. They are buying cut-outs and borders for bulletin boards, which they will personalize with their students’ names. They will be setting up birthday charts so each child will be celebrated on their special day. Teachers are stocking up on pencils, stickers, and small prizes to keep the kids motivated, and to make sure everyone has something to write with. These teachers are scouring Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest, collecting new activities that will enable their students to learn while having fun. They are purchasing rugs for the little ones to sit on, constructing cozy reading nooks, and engineering eye-pleasing storage for all the games, props, books, and art supplies their students will be using throughout the year.

We take these teachers for granted- “we” meaning the students, their parents, school administrators, and the Powers-That-Be above them. August is a busy time of preparation unparalleled in other places of business.

To illustrate, allow me to change the backdrop from a classroom to a business.

Imagine yourself opening a bookstore. As the bookstore owner, you know there is much to be done for opening day. You have to hire a crew to decorate the store, set up the shelves, open the boxes of books, and place them on the shelves in a specific order. You need someone to enter all the inventory and pricing information into the computer. This is, of course, just a partial list of all the things that need to be done before opening day.

As the staff is setting up, they realize that you didn’t order signs for the different sections of books. So one of them runs to the store and gets signs printed, and then installs them on the shelves. Someone else sees that one of the shelves is missing a screw, so he drives to the hardware store to get the missing part and a screwdriver, and then comes back and fixes the shelf. Your staff knows that opening day is coming, and they work overtime for two weeks to ensure that the store will be ready for customers on Day One.

Fast forward to the end of your first week. The opening was a big success! The customers came and gave rave reviews about the new bookstore. You are ecstatic! You enthusiastically thank your staff and pay them for the week. After all, you’ve only been open a week. You fail to pay them for the time they spent setting up. You don’t even reimburse them for the signs or the hardware.

I’m sure that this hasn’t happened at any bookstore ever.

But it is common practice in education. Teachers are not reimbursed for the money they spend on their classrooms. They are not paid for the time it takes to set up their classroom. This is how it is and has been. Will it always be this way? What will it take to change?

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