Friday, September 7, 2012

I'll be privileged in the ivory tower, right?

In response to this comment by a friend of a friend:
Teachers should be paid more. It's a proven fact that the childhood experience at school usually determines whether or not a person is going to go on to college. Professors have it easy and get paid too much for not caring whether a student passes or not. It's true, they get paid more that [sic] school teachers and they don't really do half the job that school teachers do. It's not they're [sic] responsibility to hold the college student's hand and make sure they pass, they're another pay check usually. 
The writer is being as dismissive of professors as many people are of school teachers.

In fact, University professors are being expected to hand-hold, more and more. They also, generally, must design course materials to effectively convey information to much larger class sizes and meet with students regularly. At the kinds of Universities I will be applying to, you must be an excellent teacher - making sure students are engaged and learning, while also participating in professional service and committee work, conducting top notch research, applying for grants and fellowships for your own graduate students and postdocs, in addition to mentoring undergraduate students (not in your courses) who also expect you to hold their hand. Professors still receive phone calls and emails from parents upset about grades, while, unlike elementary/high school, the students have the freedom to skip every class, and expect to still earn a 4.0 for their pre-med major. It doesn't help anyone to perpetuate misconceptions about how much effort some educators put in versus others.

Yes school teachers are underpaid, but I think many people over-estimate the salary for the average university professor.

EarningsDuring the 2005-2006 school year, elementary, middle, and high school teachers with a Bachelor's Degree who were just starting out in their career earned an average of $33,227 a year. In May of 2008, the median salary for all teachers in this education level was between $47,100 and $51,180. For the lowest ten percent of these teachers, the average was between $30,970 and $34,280 a year. For the top ten percent, the average was between $75,190 and $80,970 a year. Some ways that a teacher can increase their annual salary is to coach sports, monitor extracurricular activities, teach summer school, perform other job duties for the school over the summer, obtain a national certification, or become a mentor teacher. 
For college and university professors, the salary that a professor will earn depends on which college they work for, the rank of the college, the field of study they teach, and the number of years they have worked for that college. In May of 2008, the median salary for all college teaching positions was $58,830. For the middle fifty perfect of the teachers, their salary ranged from $41,600 to $83,960. For the lowest ten percent of all teachers, their salary was under $28,870. For the highest ten percent of all university professors, their salary was over $121,850. Some ways that a professor can earn more money than their salary is by teaching extra courses, doing research projects, publishing books, and other things. They also receive special benefits such as free tuition for themselves and family members, free access to university facilities and equipment, and paid leave.
Or, if you'd rather talk about comparing the highest paid professors versus highest paid high school teachers, see this reference, showing how they are astoundingly similar.

I completely agree that school teachers are undervalued and underpaid, but so are many post-secondary educators!

It's frustrating that fellow educators think that my (soon-to-be, hopefully) job is half the work of a school teacher.  The job is different. The stresses and the foci are different. The teaching styles and the grading are different. They are different jobs, with different responsibilities, dealing with students of different maturity levels. Is it harder to deal with kindergardeners, or teens, or young adults? It doesn't really matter.

We are all educators, and being divisive and dismissive is not only unfair, it distracts from the real issue: Educators, all educators, are undervalued.

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