Molly Phillips taught in Georgia for 15 years, including a decade in Gwinnett. She has a degree in early childhood and a master’s degree with a focus on reading and literacy. (And her husband is a teacher.)
What is merit?
By definition, it is the quality of being particularly good.
Or, the quality of being worthy,
Especially so as to deserve praise or reward.
In the case of school teachers, their merit could soon determine their pay.
But, how do you determine a teacher’s merit?
Who gets to determine the value of a teacher?
Who gets to decide their individual worth?
The reality is, no one in particular will determine the teacher’s worth.
The truth is, circumstances will govern their merit.
Circumstances that change from year to year will decide if a teacher is valuable.
Whose circumstances affect the teacher’s pay?
The students that are placed in that teacher’s classroom.
Every year it’s a new set of circumstances.
That’s right. I guess the teacher could be valuable one year and worth significantly less the next.
It really depends on the circumstances.
A teacher’s merit won’t be determined by the hours she works.
It won’t be determined by her degrees.
It won’t be determined by the extra tutoring sessions after school.
It won’t be determined by the supplies she purchased with her own money.
It won’t be determined by the trainings she attended twice a week after school.
It won’t be determined by the hours spent re-teaching a concept to the same child day after day.
It won’t be determined by the phone calls home and conferences she tried to schedule.
It won’t be determined by her sleepless nights wondering how to help a child.
It won’t be determined by the highly focused lessons she planned and taught each day.
It won’t be determined by her 20 years of successful teaching.
It won’t be determined by winning Teacher of the Year two times in those 20 years.
Really?…..not even Teacher of the Year?
Titles mean nothing when it comes to Merit Pay.
She has a new set of challenges this year.
The village she needs in order to help the students is nowhere to be found.
Her students are well below grade level.
Some are abused.
Some are hungry.
Some spend their evenings babysitting younger siblings. They fall asleep to the TV at midnight.
Some sleep in hotels. Others sleep in cars.
Remember that word…. Circumstances.
No food, no parental involvement, no home.
No love, no dedication, no care.
No doctors, No dentists.
Their clothing is too small and their hair isn’t brushed.
These circumstances will determine the teacher’s pay.
Politicians say her students should leave her class reading on grade level.
The reality is… they came to her not reading at all. Some have never had a story read to them at home.
The politicians say her students should leave her class writing a two page story.
The reality is… they came to her not writing their name. One child didn’t even know his name.
Circumstances are no way to determine value.