Saturday, January 8, 2011

Merit Pay for teachers - what are they thinking?

Ramble Dumbly, in the Ottawa Citizen suggests:

 
This is the debate in B.C.
I cannot see this, myself. Each school, each student, each region, province, is different.
 
In Canada, our pay is based on years of experience and education. The pay grid rises, and stall, in many school districts, after 10 years.  We are paid a fair wage, unlike teachers in the US, where this debate has begun. Inner city teachers teaching in poorer school districts do create miracles, but rather than merit pay, simply pay them a fair wage.
 
Who would decide?  There is some debate there. One's performance appraisal, whether in education or private business, or the civil service, is not always a fair assessment of performance. There is too much ego involved. A principal is not necessarily a fair person to judge one's performance and tie this to salary. I've had principals whose teaching style was so far removed from mine that I saw them as dinosaurs. I had one principal who had last taught a classroom when I was in grade 7. Seriously! Another who saw me as a threat, especially as the Shop Steward. She was threatened when I was directed by teaching staff to pose a question at a staff meeting.
Music lesson, reporter's photograph
 
These days, with some becoming principals after only 5 years teaching, they are not in a good position to judge. Some are threatened by the old f@rts, like me. Pay based on 'competence' is a subjective thing. Perhaps, with a wide range of abilities, or disabilities, my performance would change. One class I had consisted of 35 students, in a gr. 4/5 split, with kids with various issues: behavioural, intellectually gifted, a few with learning disabilities. Juggling these things would be a difficult thing compared to, say, a special education teacher with 10 kids in a class. I have taught JK to
 
 Compare this to a kindergarten teacher with 28 students, and an ECE Educational Assistant in full day kindergarten. Then look at an Ontario primary teacher, whose class is limited by legislation, to 20 or so students to her colleague with 35 grade 8 students. Even at the high school level, I cannot see how it would work. We all have horror stories about kids just waiting to turn 16 to quit school. Then there are those struggling to achieve high marks for university, who argue with teachers over a 97% or an 98% mark. 
Presenting at an IT workshop
 
Students and parents are not a fair judge, either, nor are the superintendents or trustees. Crows don't hatch canaries, and I can imagine working with families who don't like what you do could bias them for or against you. I recall one family upset with my disciplining their child, the principal sided with them, and didn't quite understand the whole situation. She was more concerned with placating the superintendent, and the parents, than letting the child understand the meaning of the word 'NO!'
 
I would say that education and years teaching is the only fair index, and that is factored into Ontario pay scales. Once you hit the ten year mark, I imagine a bonus for taking extra courses at night or in the summer, might help. You almost learn by osmosis in these situations. But, on the whole, I am against this. I began leading workshops at the end of my career, for which one does not get paid. We are given release time to share our expertise, but that is it. I presented at IT workshops and special education conferences on release time, weekends, and in the summer (in fact on Mother's Day weekend, 2006, when my mother died). This is how one can judge the merit of a teacher. Yet, we get nothing for these extras. It is a way to give back to the community. 

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