Sunday, January 17, 2010

Don't Forget to TIP Your Teacher

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

Don’t forget to TIP Your Teacher

October 23, 2008 – 6:52 am by Brendan

In this Scholastic article Alexander Russo takes a moment to relate performance pay with tipping. While I found the article on tipping engaging thinking about the practice in terms of teacher pay was an interesting exercise.

I thought about all those kids in the coffee shops and other stores around the country with their jars on the counter, then I imagined what it would have looked like if I had a jar on my desk. “Thanks Mr. Murphy, I really enjoyed how you modeled the use of the Quadratic Equation today.” Yeah right! Like a math teacher would get any tips.

Some questions I need to ask before putting my TIP jar out. Would I get a better tip if I let my students slide on homework? If I gave credit for trying would my tip jar fill faster? If I gave everyone a straight A’s would I make more money?

Performance pay is tossed around a lot. It has been tried and abandoned in some places and I’m sure it will be tried again and again. While I don’t have a problem with looking for a way to motivate teachers I really don’t see merit pay as a quality motivational tool. Good teaching and a desire for financial gain are not necessarily linked. (Even though I think raising teacher pay is one way to start improving education). For many teachers the classroom is the place to be, we aren’t 100% happy unless we can teach.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, teaching is not business. Trying to somehow equate the education of our children to making a profit is impossible. Teachers are different than the average employee. They need to have a certain insulation. Teachers motivated by the chance at making a bigger paycheck and teachers afraid of getting fired will not be effective teachers.

I like that fact that in general schools and districts have to follow specific protocol before they are allowed to fire a teacher. This provides enough insulation that a parent or student who is unhappy with a grade can’t get a specific teacher fired. (Administrators need the time and resources to follow through, but that is a different story) Teachers should also be insulated from money issues. Next year’s pay or this year’s bonus shouldn’t be dependent on the performance of a single class.

Merit pay doesn’t work. There is no good, objective, way of determining who is a better teacher. There is no way that I have heard of to reward teachers without drastically slanting the playing field towards one extreme or the other. The system we have now of rewarding teachers for experience, professional development, and level of education is not perfect, but it is much better than anything so far suggested.

Think for a moment about what would happen if teacher pay was based on performance.

We would see some teachers trying to load their classroom with only the best students. The bad practice of teaching to the test would get even worse. Teachers would think more about the short term success while long term goals (critical thinking, art appreciation, humanities, etc) would become lost. The entire idea of education for every citizen would be tossed out the window because like it or not some children are better students than others.


No comments: