Educators have begun going into schools, getting ready for the new school year.

And none of them are getting paid a dime for their time.

When your employer doesn’t provide you with the time you need to help children, you do it anyway; it’s about children, and you’re the one on the front lines. Anyone who knows anything about elementary classrooms knows primary education requires a lot more hands-on resources than secondary. All these resources change out multiple times per year, and take a lot of time to organize, set up and put away. Don’t forget all the resources from last year – markers, pencils, crayons – that all have to be checked to see if still usable. We don’t want to waste taxpayer money.

Then comes all the paperwork organization, and the two days of mandatory trainings, where we can’t do any classroom work. Last year, my district allocated just 90 minutes of time (when you subtract the time for mandatory online trainings) for K-4 teachers to do the 15-plus hours of work mentioned above.

School districts say that online trainings can be completed after the start of school, but no additional time in the schedule is ever provided. That’s the main reason so many staff do them during the summer, unpaid. The only way an employee would work for free is if he or she already knew, from years of being exploited, that his or her school district doesn’t care enough to do anything about it.

Because school districts don’t provide realistic paperwork time during the school year, most staff must come in early, stay late, bring stuff home and either work or come back in over the weekend in the hopes of squeezing it in during the time we’re supposed to be doing our real-life home stuff, while being unpaid for all of it.


This leads to tired-all-the-time educators. What does that matter to school districts that have a contractual loophole saying educators need to be “available to fulfill work obligations outside the school day”? Unfortunately for most of us, school districts have interpreted this to mean unlimited availability.

The pre-K and kindergarten students in my building are the last to get picked up. Our students can’t be left to themselves, so staff are with students until the last bus leaves, which is routinely 3 p.m., or later, leaving zero paid time to finish up or do anything for the following day.

How did it get this way? The answer is easy: teachers. Picture this: A first-time teacher is hired around June. Even though she knows she won’t get paid until just days before the first day of school, she can’t wait to get into her classroom. Enthusiasm and adrenaline overshadow the fact that she is not getting paid for any of it.

A new teacher quickly understands that the actual time school districts provide to set up and prepare is woefully unrealistic, but the love and passion she has for children overpowers this dark side of education. New teachers are not tenured and less likely to complain in the three probationary years. By then, the pattern of extra work has become the norm for many, who begin to justify the unpaid time educators put in as just part of the job.

Maine is one of the lowest-paying states in the country and a large percentage of teachers, especially younger ones, must work second jobs in order to pay the mountain of student debt it took to become an underpaid educator. Educators all over are being forced to donate time to our jobs. If you were given the choice between staying home or going into work and not getting paid, which would you choose? Because there’s no one else to do the work of an educator, school districts have educators by the throats.

I can’t answer for any educator other than myself, but I feel taken advantage of at the benefit of my employer.

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