By Yuki Hayashi
From the print edition, April 2012
This isn’t a teacher-bashing article, honest.
My partner has been a teacher for 12 years, and I see firsthand how hard he works—and the satisfaction he gets from educating grade-school-age kids. In addition to his formal teaching duties, he comes in early, often works through his lunch or stays after school to tutor students (whether they are his own or not) and coaches a sports team each semester.
He’s not one of those groundbreaking superstars who are going to win a teacher of the year award, but he’s one of the thousands of rank-and-file worker bees quietly chugging away, making his school a healthier, more engaging place. Our schools hum along thanks to the teachers who start school eco clubs, who lob youngsters their first volleyball, who take the older kids to city tournaments…and then boost their morale with well-phrased pep talks when the team doesn’t come home with a banner.
Our school boards are filled with unsung heroes like these. And then there are still more who put in what’s required by their collective agreement. Nothing more. You don’t really notice these ones because, well, they tend not to stand out. But they’re there. Heading out the door in droves (gotta beat traffic after all).
If teachers work off the same salary grid, enjoy the same benefits, job security and vacation time, regardless of whether or not they coach or run a club, what’s keeping them motivated? And what happens when today’s coaches get fed up and stop volunteering?
A modest proposal: Pay teachers to coach.
Frankly, coaching or leading other extracurricular activities should be considered part of all teachers’ job descriptions. “Teaching isn’t a regular job. When you’re a teacher, you are a role model. I don’t know many other jobs where you automatically become part of a community you may not live in, but teaching is one of them,” says one friend, an active parent-council member at her three sons’ school. She says teachers’ leadership role means they must be willing to log extra time, whether it’s coaching a team or helping pull together a holiday pageant.
She’d like to see it written into teachers future job descriptions. “That’ll never happen to the collective agreement,” pshawed my partner (who, for the record, thinks it should).
Fine, then. Principals should use other means to enlist a coaching-oriented roster of teachers as retirees get replaced in waves of new hiring. New graduates should understand that the new cultural expectation is that not only will they be qualified to teach but eager to coach too. Parents can help foster this environment by lobbying for teams at their kids’ school.
Let’s change the culture of teaching so it’s in line with similarly compensated private-sector careers, where a few extra hours per week is just considered part of the corporate culture.
But until then, let’s pay coaches cash bonuses. I’m not talking bankers’ bonuses, just a modest honorarium of a couple hundred dollars per coaching gig.
Here’s why. (Click to read part 2)