Time is money; teachers losing ground on both


This decade has not been good for teachers in my school district.

In 2010, a teacher with a master's degree and 19 years of experience grossed $58,721. Adjusting for inflation, this today would be equivalent to $67,783, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

This year, I am a teacher with a master's and at least 19 years of experience.

I make $61,082. That's about a 10 percent loss this decade when adjusting for inflation.

What's more, in 2010 I had 140 minutes of duty-free time to plan and manage my classroom. I used those 140 minutes and then some to perform my contractual duties.

Today, my time has been scaled back to just 70 minutes. That means most days I work about 70 minutes more outside contractual obligations to complete my duties than I did in 2010.

This year alone, my duty-free time was reduced by 45 minutes. To complete my duties in comparison to last year, I need to work an additional 45 minutes, which would have to come from outside contractual hours.

Time is money. In a 450-minute work day, that is equivalent to a 10 percent pay cut. Since 2010, that's a 15.5 percent pay cut. That 15.5 percent added to my salary, adjusted for inflation in 2010, would be $78,289. In sum, accounting for lost wages and increased time on task, each year I make about $17,000 less than what I did at the beginning of this decade.

Reducing teachers' time to plan and manage their classroom would make sense if our jobs had become more efficient and many duties and obligations had been taken from our plates. However, just the opposite has happened.

This year, I have been given three frameworks for teaching math, reading and writing that did not exist in 2010. Each one is intricate: the math framework consists of four different sections that must be prepared daily, including finding resources from math talk resources, standards mapping, Northwest Evaluation Association math strand skill deficits and fact-fluency sources. Teaching the next page from the math book belongs to the bygone days.

I'm not expecting a $17,000 raise or even a $6,000 raise this year. It is not about money as much as it's about time. Time is money, but it is so much more.

Time is the currency in which I spend my life. The amount of time I've had to do my job with pride and satisfaction has eroded while the demands have increased. What I want more than a huge raise is the time to plan, to be creative and to build healthy relationships within the school community. Unfortunately, more than ever this year, the lack of duty-free time has created such toxicity that I simply cannot teach well in an unhealthy environment.

Truly, I have relished so much of what I've learned as we attempt to tackle new initiatives. I am constantly learning how to be a better teacher. Unfortunately, though, it is as if for every new strategy I learn and new method I wish to employ, my planning time vanishes.

From listening to teachers from around the state, I don't think this is a problem unique to my district. The real problem lies with state budgeting. Before the next legislative session begins, I welcome any lawmaker to follow me in the classroom for a day.

John Stoffel has taught in northeast Indiana for 25 years.