Emily Douglas writes about the importance of motivation in helping develop a strategic compensation approach. She specifically notes that collaboration is critical in order for such a system to be successful. She also wisely adds that strategic compensation alone is not a “magic bullet” for education.
I tend to agree with Emily. Here’s why.
My father has been an educator for the past 40 years — the last 20 of them as an administrator of Alternative programs.
When we were talking about teacher compensation not long ago he asked me this question: “Do you believe your wife (my wife is a teacher) could work any harder at her job?”
I said no. She works incredibly hard and with an intense amount of dedication to the profession and to her students.
Then he said: “What if she knew she could get a big bonus?”
I said, “That wouldn’t matter … she’s doing all she can and giving all she can now.”
And I believe that.
Most teachers are tragically underpaid. Many give all they can and earn significantly less than their peers with similar education and training.
The job of teaching is incredibly demanding.
Then, my father told me about a time when he was a principal and the system gave school-based cash bonuses for meeting or exceeding certain benchmarks. The school got a certain dollar amount and the faculty got to decide what to do with that money. They could give everyone a bonus, they could spend it on supplies, they could buy things for the students… they were allowed to decide what to do.
In 14 years, only once did the faculty decide on bonuses for themselves. In every other instance, they purchased new technology or supplies or resources. They wanted the tools to be even better educators.
This goes to Emily’s point that it’s not all about monetary compensation.
Yes, teachers should be paid a fair wage — they should be well paid. Let me be clear: A fair wage is not a $1,000 or $2,000 raise from current teacher salaries. In most cases, teachers should be making $10,000 more a year than they are right now. At a minimum.
But then, teachers should be asked to come together around a strategic compensation system. They should be asked what they would do if their school had X amount of extra money. How would they structure a system that would work for them.
Collaboration is critical. Too often, compensation systems are designed without teacher input. That’s a huge mistake.
I suspect many teachers would answer like the ones at my dad’s school. They’d want more resources and tools to help them do their jobs. Sure, they might also want a cash bonus every now and then, too. But in either case, they should absolutely be involved in the decision.