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Reality of life in the classroom
by Larry Wilson
Nov 16, 2010 | 980 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Many people believe teachers live “The Life of Riley” with summers off and a huge paycheck. All they do is babysit kids all day and not for a whole day, at that. Most people forget that teachers have at least a college or university four-year degree. This education was often paid for out of their own pocket and not subsidized by public money, unless they were able to qualify for a scholarship for having done well in previous educational endeavors.

According to the Washoe Education Association, education makes up about 52 percent of Nevada’s budget, yet beginning teachers earn slightly above the level that would qualify them for food stamps if they had children. Teachers do not have a paid vacation. They never receive a bonus. They are not guaranteed a coffee break or lunch hour. Often they don’t even know when they will have time for a bathroom break. Teachers have to renew their teaching certificate by completing a set number of credits in either college courses or in-service classes, pass a health inspection and pay a fee for renewal — all out of their own pocket.

Teachers’ pay scale in Washoe County tops out at a little over $50,000 dollars a year and is based on years of service and level of education. Administrators’ pay scale is separate from teachers and it has no ceiling.

A rookie deputy sheriff in Washoe County earns between $50,000 and $60,000 dollars a year when you factor in overtime. The deputy does not have to have a four-year college degree to attain the job. The deputy also has a paid vacation and can retire after only 20 years on the job. Training to maintain the deputy’s skills is done during working hours or in paid overtime hours. Overtime income adds to the retirement benefits the deputy will receive from the Nevada Public Employees Retirement System.

Various factions criticize teachers’ associations or unions for their existence and power. If it weren’t for these associations or unions and their power at the negotiating table teachers wouldn’t have what they do in terms of salary or benefits. With the upcoming session of the Nevada Legislature looming on the horizon, there are rumors that the budget for education will suffer more cuts this time around.

The realities of what a teacher does on a daily basis more often than not escape the average “civilian.” The following was sent to me by a former teacher colleague of mine. Hopefully, it will serve to enlighten people as to the realities of the teaching profession.

“After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said, ‘Let me see if I’ve got this right: You want me to go into the classroom with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages and instill in them a love for learning. You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases and raise their self-esteem and personal pride …

‘You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook and apply for a job. You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior and make sure that they all pass the final exams ...

‘You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language, by letter, telephone, newsletter and report card …

‘You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps …

‘You want me to do all this and then you tell me … I CAN’T PRAY ?’ ”

Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. You can contact him at
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