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Would you work for "free"?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Not food or fitness related. Any seeking that content are advised to move along.
I am a trained certified experienced teacher. I have been unable to find a job for 2 years. During this time I have battled depression, anxiety and feelings of low self-worth.

I took my current position as a teacher's aide because it will allow me to stay in the education field, doing what I love, even if its not at the ideal location or the ideal job within that field. When I was offered the job much was said that "The school is growing. There might be a position down the road." No promises, but potential. At the start of this semester, I was asked to teach a single section of biology to some of the hardest cases in a new, special program. The rest of the time, I am a teacher's aide. Eagerly, I agreed. I am a team player. I want to teach. I am willing to start at the bottom.

Surprisingly, I have been making progress with some of these hard cases. Within the regular program, some students are seeking me out for all the regular reasons teens bond with adults in their lives. I enjoy a collegial relationship with my teacher colleagues, even if I am not "one of them." After all, we're all in this together. Things are going well. I feel buoyed....until today.

I will not be receiving teacher pay for this one section. My choices are thus:
1) Continue to do the job. Be a team player or sucker depending on your point of view. Its for the good of the kids.
2) Refuse to do the job. Be an @$$wipe/ non-team player and possibly not have job in the future. Damage the kids.

Husband says #2. Science colleague says #2. Logic brain says #2. I dont want to establish precedent that they (central administration - building principal planned to pay me and was surprised when they said no) can do this. My heart knows this is the WRONG decision for the kids. I feel sick and want to cry.

What's going to happen? The science teacher in the building will be asked to design lessons for someone else to deliver. They wont be able to do it as well as I can
1) I know the content
2) I have built the relationship with these students.

FYI - these are not "normal" kids. This is a special school for the emotionally disturbed. My fellow teachers, you know these kids, these are the ones that make you crazy in the classroom. The ones that cant stop talking, the ones that always had something happen during lunch, the ones that cant make it to school on a regular basis. Here they are!

So my challenge in the next 24 hours is to find a way to nicely tell my principal that I will not be working for free, but its not by choice.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Not fair. I think you need to have a heart to hear with the principal and make your case. You should be paid a differential for that class. Period. You should also make the case that they will probably pay a different teacher at teacher's wages to teach that class if you don't do it. So they need to step up and do the right thing.
    1941 days ago
  • MYRTLE811
    Although it seems as though you're in an untenable place, I would recomment you keep the job. You need to fill out your resume and what an experience it is to set your curriculum and work with kids who need the extra TLC and help for their special needs. Use this to your advantage; this is not the only school around you. Let the principal know that you hope to have a full time job next year and want him/her to keep you in mind. Be proactive about it.
    You are getting paid your aide's salary; know it's not the same, but remember that principal's hands are tied; he's not making this decision. I hope you weight and measure all the positives you will get out of this as well as the negatives and make the best choice for yourself in the end.
    1942 days ago
    Such a position to be in--but --you are worth it as a great person--Hopefully someone will recognize this---If you don't ask, the answer will always be no----Lynda emoticon
    1943 days ago
    Sorry to hear about this. What a bummer to be only an aide when you have the credentials.
    Good luck!
    1952 days ago
    You've gotten some good advice. If you've made your decision, good for you.
    If you haven't here's one more spot of advice.

    I hire and fire. It's a good/bad part of my position. I weigh the experieince of candidates for new positions not just on their educational and experience qualifications but also on the "spark" they have for the job.

    I have hired several people who I know have been fired from their last jobs because I found the worth they have and saw the real stories behind these honest people. They proved their passsion, drive and knowledge. They have done exceedingly well and I couldn't have made better choices.

    I have fired several people who were intelligent, well educated yet lackluster, incapable of living with the stringent rules placed on the actual work at hand and sometimes downright dangerous to the process.

    Are you getting paid and are you getting experience? Keep looking for a new job but just imagine the resume you can put together with your enhanced skills you may have gained in this "volunteered" position. Telling the employer at the end of the year that you have learned and enjoyed the challenge and "by the way I'd appreciate a letter of recommendation" may get you that new job or remind them of your worth. No experience leaves you unchanged...it's how you allow it to change you!

    Then again, if you despise the place or are treated poorly, call it a day.

    Either way, I wish you luck. emoticon
    1952 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/15/2013 8:30:55 AM
    I have nothing to add to the valuable and thoughtful advice you've already received, but I wanted to let you know I feel for you. I know the decision must be ripping you apart. But it is the right decision. But hugs and sympathy (and empathy) all the same.
    1952 days ago
    I don't know all of the particulars: How about this:

    "Of course I will do this IF you give me a full teaching position in the next academic year". Until then, I will be willing to forfeit the pay I deserve because I know that you are not the kind of person who would exploit me. As soon as you can draw up the contract for next year and we all sign it, I will go ahead and teach this class."

    1952 days ago
    Please keep us updated. I'm so sorry you're being put in such a horrible situation!
    1953 days ago
  • MARTY728
    Is there a Teachers Union at the school? If so, you may want to involve them.

    Good luck and please let us know the outcome. emoticon
    1953 days ago
    can't you talk to the kids? the parents kids? they can't do anything for you? both choices are bad. I don't think you can afford to work unpaid. but maybe you will find a way to explain it to the kids
    1953 days ago
    I am so tired of school districts doing whatever it takes to save a buck. These are at-risk kids, and they won't get what's in their best interest, in the name of a school district saving money. Completely wrong. I'm sorry you are going through this.
    1953 days ago
    I think it is horrible for them to put you in this position. I'm so sorry. I hope you can find a way to make it work for the future.
    1953 days ago
    This is so awful. I'm really sorry. Is it a private school? Is there a teachers and or aides union? You are in a difficult position and the school put you there. I hope this works out for you and for the kids.
    1953 days ago
    This is brutal!

    I do want to clarify one thing though: are they paying you as a teacher's aide full time, and just giving you 1 slot of teaching (at basically a cheaper rate to them) or are the hours with that one class not paid to you at all? Either way is unfair and inappropriate, I just thought I'd ask which was going on.

    Not being paid appropriately as a teacher is very, very challenging. I am trained as a teacher for high school math and computer studies, am fluently bilingual, have a background teaching algebra and calculus at university... and I work as an administrative officer for the government because that's the full time job I finally got.
    1953 days ago
    As a teacher, I feel your pain. We teach because we love kids. We build relationships with them. We care about them outside of the hours we are required to be with them. It's not a regular job. But, it is a job. None of my friends in the business world would give away their services, nor would any company ask them to, but teachers are asked to give up their time, their talents, their skills on a daily basis because we are not valued the same way that other professionals are. And part of that is of our own doing, because we are willing to "do it for the kids".

    You need to take this stand. For yourself and for teaching as a profession. You are a trained professional and need to be compensated as a trained professional. As someone else said, you are not making the choice to leave, they are making the choice not to pay you.

    Good luck!!!
    1953 days ago
    I think you can thank them for the opportunity and the experience but let them know that you took it because they told you that you would be compensated and they have broken that promise. Let them know that you worked hard for your degree and certification and that it required sacrifice from your family and those around you and it would be a betrayal to them to give it away for free. I know that schools are tight, but it seems to me that each person that works for free means fewer teachers will be hired--which is what led to where you are now.
    1953 days ago
    There was a case like this in our school where the woman worked for 'free' with the offer of the first job that came open. She worked for about 3 years that way. A job opened. They hired from 'the outside'. She (rightly) quit. She worked for 3 years for nothing - plainly not even appreciation. It seems that they thought she would keep working even if they hired someone else, cause after all she had been party to working so long for free. She didn't place a monitary value on her services, and there-fore the school didn't either.
    1953 days ago
    I'm with GladGad... make your case, that you are sorry, but you cannot do the job "for free", but if they step up, you will be worth it. This could be a "testing limits" thing. My sister in law had to have a similar conversation with the administration of the Catholic school for which she taught for many years. She could not afford to keep the job if she did not receive benefits. It broke her heart to have to have it, but she did have the conversation, and they did come through for her.

    A workman is worthy of his hire. So is a teacher. Good luck, and be strong.
    1953 days ago
    If you really want to stay on AND get paid, you have a chance to do so. Write down every positive thing that you listed here and when you talk to your principal, open the conversation with your list. Give him/her every reason why you should be kept - you are, after all, an invaluable asset to the school.

    After that, let him/her know that you will only stay on if you have a salary. If you are still turned down, then you know that it's not YOUR decision to leave, but THEIR decision to not make you stay. You are not letting the students down, the school is letting them down. You were fighting for them.

    If you are told that you still are not getting a salary, thank them for the opportunity to make a difference in the kids' lives, because that's what you enjoy doing. Let them know that you will come back anytime when they are able to provide an offer.

    Just because you do something you love doesn't mean that you shouldn't get paid for it, or that you should be paid less than someone who doesn't enjoy it.

    Good luck!
    1953 days ago
    My heart most definitely goes out to you and feels your pain ............... This is very difficult, but I also hear the love and devotion you have for these students .......... and I worry without you ................... will they get the short end of the stick? ............ And will you too? ................. something is wrong here, but is is NOT with your heart .......... You sound golden ......................... Bless you and I do pray something very "good' comes of this ........................... Your friend ............ 2B (jan)
    1953 days ago
    Very difficult decision. But I think you are right to move on.
    1953 days ago
    1953 days ago
    I am a fellow teacher and understand - our salary is already low for everything we do, you should be paid for that class. Hard decision definitely, but I think you are making the right one.
    1953 days ago
    Tough decision, but I think you're making the right one. Best of luck to you!
    1953 days ago
    1953 days ago
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