A while back, my wife and I were sitting at a restaurant eating dinner when we overheard three fairly obnoxious 20-somethings sitting in the next booth discussing the educational system.
At one point, the loudest of the group mentioned that teachers are really just overpriced babysitters and should get paid like a babysitter.
Well, that got me to thinking. According to a survey on Care.com, the average hourly rate for a babysitter in 2016 was $13.97 an hour. Since I also provide tutoring, I figure I can move my rate up to $15 an hour.
My average class size is 32 students, so if I charge each parent $15, that would be a total of $480 an hour. I teach five periods a day, so that would be a daily pay rate of $2,400, and since I teach 180 days a year, my yearly salary would be $432,000.
No, my obnoxious restaurant neighbors, I don’t get paid like a babysitter.
This group also implied that teaching is an easy job. I was tempted to pull up a chair and do some role-playing with them. Imagine inviting 32 12- year-olds into a room slightly bigger than your living room and having to keep their full attention for the next hour.
OK, that is too easy, so let’s throw in a couple of curves. Twelve of those kids have 504 plans that require special seating. Six have Individual Educational Plans that require modified instruction (no two will be the same). Two kids will have diabetes, one will have bladder issues, seven will be struggling with emotional problems, one will have a hearing impediment which requires the teacher to wear a special microphone, and 33 will have been diagnosed with ADD (of course that number includes the teacher).
At the end of the hour you will need to run next door to use the restroom, but don’t be too long because the next group of 32 will arrive in five minutes.
If you can, try to hold it until lunch because you will then have a glorious 35 minutes for a real bathroom break, some time to catch students up who were absent, and eat lunch.
At the end of the day you will need to plan instruction for the following morning, make copies and start grading those 130 (two pages each and poorly written). Of course, that will all have to wait until you finish that after-school parent conference.
No, this job is not easy … so why do we do it?
Once a week or so, a kid might scream your name across campus and run 40 yards just to give you a fist bump before you drive home for the day.
Just maybe a girl you nicknamed the Poetry Queen because she wrote good couplets as a 12-year-old will send you an autographed copy of a book of poetry she had published in college. In the inscription of the book, she might just thank you for the nickname and the motivation.
Just possibly, you might run into a former student who is all grown up and she will tell you that you saved her life with all of your “moral” speeches back in junior high that convinced her to stay off drugs when all of her friends were caving in to the peer pressure.
Maybe one day you will be filled with pride as you get to observe a former student teaching her very own English class at your very own junior high school.
There is even a chance that when Christmas rolls around, you just might take home a pile of Christmas cards with hand-written notes telling you specifically why you matter to each of your students.
So at the end of each day, after I close my eyes and thank God for providing me with the absolute best job on the planet, I sleep knowing that the next day I get to wake up with the hope of possibly getting to make a positive impact on someone else’s life.
So is this job easy? No, but nothing in life that brings this much satisfaction ever is.
Still, feel free to pay me like a babysitter.
Bruce Tracy is a Castaic resident.