Our opinion: Teacher as provider

If you were a teacher in the Farmington Township School District – yes, there was one – in Warren County in 1920, you would have signed a contract providing you $80 a month in pay while school was in session.

In addition to teaching your flock, you would have been required to do the following: “the ordinary duties of a janitor (such as sweeping of the floors and making fires)…the necessary fuel and brooms therefor to be provided by the said Board of Directors.”

And, just to make sure that maintenance of the building didn’t give you the idea that you had some ownership, your contract stipulated that the “actual possession of the schoohouse and premises shall remain and be at all times in the said Board of Directors and their successors.”

Things have come a long way in the relationship between teachers and the boards that employ them.

Some things haven’t changed, however.

Teachers don’t just teach.

At Roxborough High School in Philadelphia, teachers and staff use a school washer and dryer to clean the clothes of needy students. The school is not unique in poorer areas of Pennsylvania, where teachers and staff also buy food, prom clothes, toilet paper, eyeglasses and other items for children from families with meager means, according to a recent report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Too often, in the debate over school district budgets, union contracts, and even the role of education in our society, teachers are portrayed as union robots who preside over classes with the sole purpose of making sure that students mark the right answers on a standardized test form.

It is common knowledge – at least among educators – in the Warren County School District that teachers often reach into their own pockets to pay for necessary classroom supplies.

And, while some may complain that teachers are supplanting parents, others believe there are cases of abuse and neglect in which teachers have no choice but to intervene.

It is difficult to turn your back to a problem that causes a child to suffer, especially when you spend seven hours a day with them.