As the fall semester comes to a close, this past school year online continues to wear on students and educators. The sustainability of another semester in an online or hybrid learning environment, along with the economic and staffing challenges that accompany it, should be at the forefront of administrators' concerns.
Being at home with students has made parents realize the sheer amount of work that goes into being a teacher. The massive recent transition to homeschooling illustrates how valuable school workers and public education are to our lives, and how unappreciated they are.
Andre M. Perry, a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution, said “parents have been left to play the role of teacher, principal and lunch lady all at once. We (are) pulling out our hair trying to figure out lesson plans, distance learning platforms and assignments. And our children are treating us like the flailing emergency substitute teachers we are.”
The role of teachers, as they have been forced to play numerous roles in the lives of their students, far exceeds the amount they are typically financially compensated. In comparison to other workers with similar education and experience, teachers earn 11.1 percent less.
Let us start by looking across the country. Kara Stoltenberg, a language arts teacher at Norman High School in Oklahoma, candidly said that education in Oklahoma needs more support. The class sizes are large, and she is forced to buy her own classroom supplies.
She and her colleagues deeply understand the nature of their jobs and know they will not be able to meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, as their school has not been properly funded for a decade. They teach anyway and risk their lives doing so.
This is part of a broader trend of teacher neglect. Entry salaries for teachers in 2016 had not increased from 2000. Average salaries for all teachers actually declined during this time period (when considering the rising cost of living, this is one of the main reasons why many teachers cannot afford to live where they teach).
And despite our own school, Rutgers, leaning on its teachers more than ever, part-time lecturers (PTLs), who comprise a sizable portion of the Rutgers faculty, dealt with a hiring freeze back in April as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic engulfed our world.
"Rutgers University announced a hiring freeze on April 2 in an email sent to staff, a measure which could result in less PTLs working at the University (in the Fall 2020) semester. Rutgers state funding has been cut due to the COVID-19 outbreak, impacting the University’s revenue, according to University spokesperson Dory Devlin," reported The Daily Targum.
This is a nightmare, and it is the exact opposite of what justice is. Instead of facing declining wages and hiring freezes, teachers all around the nation should be compensated for all of the extra hours they are devoting to learning online programs and creating virtual resources for their students.
Additionally, the experiences of students during this time must be attributed to more than just their relationships with their teachers.
Educators are bound by the policies that are forced on them. Administrators must work in conjunction with teachers to determine flexible and reasonable plans of action. Treating teachers better ensures a better learning experience for students.
During the confusion and suffering in the midst of this pandemic, education is something that people can hold on to for a semblance of normalcy. Continuing education while keeping students safe should be something that all students, educators and administrators must prioritize.
This sentiment also applies to college students, many of whom are training to be teachers themselves. Shea Martin, an education scholar and facilitator, said that “if we keep this up, you (are) going to lose an entire generation of not only students but also teachers.”
It is time for us to stand up for our educators. In regards to our own University, we must call on the administrators to hire the PTLs they laid off. Contact the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers and ask how you can help Rutgers PTLs.
It is on all of us, especially the Rutgers administration, to ensure teachers are getting the support they need.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.