Work-to-rule works against students
By Johanna Yee
Round Table editor
Teachers are professionals. Their job requires a high-level of education, subject matter expertise, strategic planning, and a certification; therefore, they deserve the compensation and respect that is commensurate with a professional. It is wrong that the Board of Education and the Board of County Commissioners are denying Frederick County Public School teachers the proper recognition with appropriate rates of pay; however, the work-to-contract action is not the right response.
Teachers can’t have it both ways. They want to be paid as professionals, but professionals work to the job, not to the clock. Professionals have to be willing to work beyond a set schedule if their job requires them to do so.
A surgeon opens a patient on the operating table and discovers complications. A defense attorney learns of incriminating evidence right before trial. Neither can glance at the time and simply shrug off the situation. They must deal with it. Professionals are not “shift workers”; they work until the job is done.
The argument can be made that a professional in such circumstances bills for the extra time. The patient and criminal defendant previously mentioned will have to pay more than the original cost estimate for the professional services, thus raising the question: Should teachers be paid extra as well? The answer is yes.
However, the standard rate of pay assumes that extra time commitment by teachers. When accepting the position, the teacher – especially a high school teacher –understands that services beyond the classroom schedule are expected . Although it is not actually stated in the contract, it is inherent in the definition of the occupation.
Homework and tests must be graded. This feedback needs to be given as soon as possible in order to help the students improve in the future and to ensure that they don’t fall behind. For these reasons, one-on-one tutoring is often essential. Teachers understand from the start that prompt grading and availability for individual student help will be required.
Letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors are a crucial part of students’ college applications and are also often required for summer jobs, summer academic programs and scholarships. High school teachers and guidance counselors know that they will be asked to write these reference letters periodically during the school year.
In addition, teachers normally expect to be called upon to support some of the school’s occasional evening functions, such as the Senior Awards Ceremony or Mr. Middletown.
Without these services by teachers beyond the school day, students are suffering for something that they neither caused nor could control.
If the work-to-contract action continues, many after-school programs will be cancelled. The North Frederick Elementary School after-school choir has already been cancelled as a result of “work-to-rule”. Mr. Middletown will have to be cancelled, as well, if the work-to-contract action lasts too much longer. Students put in a lot of time rehearsing for these performances, and the proceeds are often used as fundraisers for student organizations. Student participation in these events is also important for personal growth and for application credentials.
Students will be unable to get timely letters of recommendation that they need. A letter of recommendation can mean the difference between the acceptance pile and the rejection pile, and a letter submitted late is the same as no letter at all.
With the teachers leaving at 2:45 p.m., students have 30 minutes to get extra help from their teachers, a good part of which is spent going to their lockers, trying to get through the jam-packed halls and making arrangements with their parents to get picked up. By the time the bell, signaling the start of tutoring, rings at 2:30 p.m., students are left with only 15 minutes to get the assistance that they need. That amount of time is inadequate, especially if multiple students seek clarification for different questions.
Students in Advanced Placement classes will be adversely affected by insufficient teacher guidance in the weeks before the AP exams. AP course teachers realize the need for a series of pre-exam after-school review sessions, which in the past normally last for about an hour each. Because the teachers are leaving at 2:45 p.m., an after-school review session is not even long enough to cover one topic. Even a series of these shortened sessions cannot review the material for the entire course in the month remaining before the AP exams. As a result, students may receive lower AP scores due to inadequate review. Students who obtain lower scores will not earn the AP Scholar awards, which bolster their college applications, and may not test out of introductory coursework in college.
The community should appreciate the valuable and difficult work that teachers do, and that appreciation should be shown with the proper remuneration. Teachers have a very important job that is vital for the future of our county, and they deserve a professional salary. But the way to make that point is not to disregard the services incumbent on teachers. Such an approach is not professional, yet it is the type of desperate response to which blue-collar workers must resort.
Rather than withdrawing the services that teachers provide, they should highlight them. A professional substantiates the increased cost of services by emphasizing the value and necessity of the services provided. Teachers’ efforts produce some spectacular results, and these should be publicized county-wide. It is a positive approach, not a negative one, and the students would not suffer as a result.