Worth the time? Pay teachers for extracurriculars

Brandon Kleber

Students from all grades, backgrounds and ethnicities can be heard complaining day in and day out in the hallways of Grady about anything from the merit of a five-page English assignment to how best to prepare for the dreaded physics final. But have you ever heard a teacher complain about having to work extra, unpaid hours to sponsor an extracurricular activity, giving up much needed planning time for a less-than-inspiring activity such as paperwork or planning for a meeting?

The answer is no. In fact, most Grady teachers wake up each morning with one thing on their mind: putting students first and teaching them well. Our teachers do not need to be constantly watched by administrators, nor should they be expected to do hours of extra work each night for no additional stipend.

Some teachers may think of sponsoring an activity as a burden. Others see it as personally rewarding. But whatever the individual teacher’s attitude may be, students should recognize the generally excellent work our teachers do and support them, making their jobs and their lives easier.

As the ultimate Frisbee team searches for a new team sponsor after Susie Mercer’s departure, I have found why it is very difficult to find a teacher who is willing or able to take on another activity after work. Not only do they already come to school early and leave school late to prepare for their classes and grade assignments, but in between they teach a full load of classes. Asking them to add another thing to their plate is asking a lot.

Ultimate is just one example. Each year, the majority of clubs and sports at Grady struggle to find a teacher sponsor. Why is this? Because teachers perform these thankless jobs for free.

You wouldn’t work extra hours for no pay, so why should teachers? Most teachers would tell you they don’t teach or sponsor an extracurricular club in order to be wealthy. This is no doubt true, but the intangible satisfaction teachers receive from teaching should not be seen as a substitute for other kinds of compensation.

Some people see teachers as glorified babysitters, photocopiers or DVD players, and this assessment would lead some to believe that teachers are overpaid. But teaching entails so much more than standing in front of a class from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Teachers spend countless hours studying curriculum, planning lessons and assessments, writing evaluations, grading those evaluations, calling home, doing paperwork, attending meetings, collaborating, organizing resources, and more. Beyond these immutable tasks, teaching has changed a great deal; different times bring different challenges.

That’s a lot of responsibility for teachers, and it’s really just the beginning of the requirements, let alone the after-school work. The misguided idea that teachers somehow owe it to students and parents to volunteer their time shows a poor understanding of the effort teachers put in each day, when the most basic parts of the profession are difficult enough to handle.

In all the debates I’ve heard in favor or against paying teachers for the extra work they put forth, never have I heard any acknowledgements of what running clubs, supervising events and coaching intramural sports actually entails. Too many people are putting an overemphasis on what families and students are losing by not having teacher sponsors. Teachers also have families, and without a stipend to increase a family’s income, teachers have even less incentive to escort a basketball team on the bus or spend an entire Saturday judging a debate tournament, and to do all the associated paperwork.

People only work for free when they are  being respected. I hope this can change in the future for APS schools and schools across the nation, but I find it completely understandable why teachers would find it difficult to take time out of their busy schedules to volunteer for extracurricular activities.

Teachers’ work days don’t end when the clock hits 3:30 p.m. Seven hours at work is far more than seven hours of work. In order to keep up with the job responsibilities of being a teacher, the “school day” often spills over into the evening and weekend, when many teachers have other responsibilities at home, as well. Teachers are already working far more than 35 hours per week just to keep up with work, with all extra hours unpaid. They should not be expected to work even more unpaid hours.

Regardless of which side students, parents and teachers take on this relevant issue, all teachers are continuing to do what they’re paid to do, teaching students first. And I know one thing: Grady’s teachers are the best at what they do.