Merit or demerit?
There are some teachers who are just better than others. In many ways, with many people, many colleagues. No secret really, observed many times. So why should they (not) be paid more?
There are many cases of (failed) merit pay schemes for teachers around the world. They pretty much show that merit pay for teachers, based fundamentally on extrinsic rewards for, in most cases, intrinsically rewarding job of a teacher as a ‘service to public’ … simply does not work. So why should we pay teachers differently, ‘on merit’ then?
Volumes have been written on this topic from the opposite ‘camps’. Can we have both (sounds like a politician’s wet dream)?
For the record, I would not dismiss the idea of rewarding good teachers. Let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. But if we as a society (or rather our elected representatives we always deserve) think teachers will ‘lift their game’ so they can get paid a few bucks more – very few will do so and not necessarily in the neat accounting brackets either (“extra 10% in pay will result in 10% better student results” – oh, come on!).
Here is a late night cobble of few ideas on how we could perhaps keep the baby in and change the water. Just ideas, with all their faults and crazy options…
- Build and reward positive interdependence and pay for success of the team. Good teachers do it in class and often when a group effort is called for. The synergy of a well thought-out team will outweigh any individual scheme anytime plus have a range of positive side-effects. The one that first springs to mind is the growth of a culture of innovation and collaboration in a workplace. Of course, the trick is in the leadership, getting it right and spreading the rewards (the equity or equality argument) but if we can do it with students – why not with teachers too?
- Pay a decent base rate pay, then pay extra amounts to those who mentor and/or support colleagues (particularly those in need). Young or old, regardless of years spent teaching. In other words – pay more to leaders, not merely non-leavers. While excellence and experience are often related, there are some very important differences between the two and they definitely should not be used interchangeably by default (when found, will link to an excellent paper I had come across on this … 😛 ). Some teachers will do it (mostly) for the money, most will do it for passion, interest, recognition … and maybe a little extra cash will be nice, yes.
- Every 3 to 5 years, give teachers a few months to upskill, mentor, study, research, publish etc with less pressure of the constant class-related rush… a ‘classroom sabbatical’, not a holiday. Getting out of class sometimes, even if for a couple of terms to recharge and refresh batteries would surely be well received. This would be an opportunity to get a better, deeper outlook on things and, importantly, (re)discover the value of learning and the business we are in. Are you thinking ‘retention of teaching workforce’? I am.
- Re-brand ‘teacher’ as a learning professional. Make the university undergraduate course very challenging, including lots of practical work and forms of ‘internships’, but knowing that once declared ‘a teacher’ (or learning professional or whatever the title), the person would have a set of skills, knowledge and flexibility to work in virtually any environment that requires (re)learning. This would include theories and approaches to learning, communication skills, use of technology and similar. The up and coming Gen X (often dubbed the ‘options generation’) as power-brokers and the subsequent “Gens” would certainly appreciate the range of options available.
- I don’t know about you but some of the best teachers in my life were not even remotely teachers by profession! Let’s involve the community. It is amazing how many passionate, talented and keen people in the community are able and willing to contribute, help and (mostly unknowingly) inspire. And many of these people who could teach parts (or the whole) and work with students on something they and/or the students are passionate about probably live in the community just around the corner from where the kids live and school is placed in.. Sounds crazy? Ask Dave Eggers (one of the best TED talks I have seen!) and his Once upon a school project.
How does this sound to you? Any others you can think of or expand on? Feel free to (comment) …