As teaching becomes more complex, David Campbell ponders just what a caring parent would pay for a child's education –
It's school holiday time. Parents all over Queensland are scanning lists of holiday programs, eagerly seeking new and interesting ways to keep their children occupied. And probably complaining about what a soft job teaching is, with all those holidays.
So it's timely to ask: what's a teacher worth? In other words, how much an hour should a qualified professional be paid to care for and educate your child? Oh, you might say, I'm not going to get caught by that! There are lots of children in each class, so it's not like paying a plumber or an electrician. II would have to be a small amount. Say, $5 an hour.
That seems reasonable. OK, so let's lake a very conservative situation. In a small class of 20 students, that means $100 an hour. I've just had a plumber clear a stormwater drain at $308 an hour, so the teaching rate is pretty cheap by comparison. And let's say a teacher works only for five hours each day. Teachers will scoff at that because they are effectively on duty between the hours of 8.30am and 4pm, and that ignores meetings and sporting activities that will occupy time well beyond those limits. Plus, of course, correction and preparation that is done at home in the evenings. But we'll leave all that out. That means a teacher is worth $500 a day. So how many days a year do they work?
Well, you might say, I'm certainly not paying for the holidays. I don't see why I should foot the bill while a teacher is lolling about on some beach soaking up the sun. All right. Although correction and reports are common holiday chores, we'll take out the 12 weeks of holidays. And, despite the fact that teachers regularly work at home on weekends, we'll omit them too.
That means, in summary, that a teacher works five hours a day, five days a week, for 40 weeks of the year at a rate of $5 a student an hour. Fair enough? That works out to, let's see, $500 a day for 200 days. Hang on! That's $100,000! Can't be right. Must be a mistake somewhere. No, there isn't.
Then remember that most classes are larger than 20, and that the work of teachers extends well beyond five hours in a day and 200 days in a year. Now consider the type of work involved. At some stage during the holidays many parents will start wishing the kids were back at school. They'll be struggling to cope with their own children, let alone having to deal with a group of 20 or more.
That group inevitably includes children from broken homes and some with learning difficulties and behavioural problems. And those problems are compounded in a classroom. Yet each parent expects his or her child will receive sufficient individual attention from the teacher to overcome any difficulties and produce a well-rounded, socially adept and academically successful student for much less than $5 an hour.
You might argue that teaching is a vocation that can't be broken down into hourly rates. It's one of the caring professions. Teachers work for the love of the job, for the intangible reward of seeing children develop and succeed.
True. But during the past three decades teachers have watched their salaries drop markedly in comparison with average weekly earnings, while the job of teaching has become much more complex as it is subjected to the pressures of an increasingly fractured society and unrealistic parental and government expectations.
No wonder we're confronted with a shortage of teachers.
(David Campbell is a former teacher)
No doubt this is written with tongue fairly planted in cheek, but I defy you to find a hole in his logic. How we think about an individual's contribution is generally governed by how much that individual earns.
As a continuing teacher (admittedly part-time these days, because of "retirement"), I agree completely, and believe that this logic should also be applied to those who work in the childcare industry.