Duty bound to sacrifice?

Another theme that runs through my mind all the time is who, exactly, is responsible for student success?  It’s a theme that Mike and I have been wrestling with a bit in the comment section of my last post—and it’s a theme that Jenn Orr has been wrestling with over at In Practice.

Jenn writes:

I’m wondering about the role and limitation of the school. What should a school be doing? Where does it end?

Obviously, our responsibility is the education of the students. It is easy to simply draw a line that divides educational duties apart from everything else. I believe our students deserve better from us. I’m unwilling to abdicate responsibility simply because something is not clearly related to my educational duty. My students deserve every opportunity to be successful and sometimes that requires more from me or from my school.

But a school can’t be everything to everyone. At some point we can’t or shouldn’t be involved. Where is that line?

I struggle to find the “Responsibility Line” too, and openly wonder whether or not my willingness to go above and beyond “the call of duty” actually hurts our profession more than it helps.  Here’s the comment that I left on Jenn’s post:

I sometimes wonder if the extra effort that I put in at my school and for my students beyond my contract and long into the evening for no additional compensation is simply being taken for granted by my administrators, by law makers, by the community.

People have just grown to expect that I’ll do whatever it takes to make my kids successful.

And while I’m passionate about that work—and committed to helping kids regardless of the personal costs—I worry that I’m making it easy for “the powers that be” to avoid giving me a raise!

Why pay me more for work that I’m already doing for free?

What’s more, I worry that I raise the bar to ridiculous levels for other teachers. You see, I haven’t been lucky enough to be a parent yet, so I’ve got more extra time on my hands than the average teacher.

I invest that time into reading and writing about my profession and developing cutting edge instructional experiences for my kids. I also spend more on my classroom than most teachers that I know. If we need a new digital tool, I’ll buy it. If we need new books for the bookshelf, I’ll buy them.

And while I earn plenty of celebration for that work, other teachers are criticized because they’re not more like me. “If Mr. Ferriter can do all those wonderful things with his kids, why can’t you?” they’ll unfairly ask.

So the question rumbling through my mind is do Uber-Teachers who go far beyond the normal expectations for educators do more harm or more good for our profession?

If we drew a clear line in the sand and refused to cross it, would we be able to get others to value the work that we’ve always done for free?

Sure—it would run contrary to all that we are as teachers to turn away from meaningful work that would be left undone without us…..but if we just keep doing this work without demanding fair compensation, will our salaries ever rise to levels comparable to other professionals?

You’ve got me thinking today…

So what do you think?  Should we draw a line in the educational sand that we refuse to cross, clearly delineating the kinds of tasks that we’re responsible for and the kinds of tasks that schools, districts and communities must find someone else to complete?

Do we hurt our profession by refusing to take a strong stand and willingly accepting responsibility for a range of tasks that were once filled by parents and preachers?

Or are we duty-bound to make personal and professional sacrifices for our students, regardless of how much time or money that takes?  Could we even knowingly walk away from the work that would be left incomplete if it weren’t for our commitment to the children that we serve?

Is it even possible to define a set of expectations for teachers considering how quickly the world changes?  Wouldn’t a set of tasks created today be outdated tomorrow?

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