January 8, 2022

Gabe Hart: That’s What The Money’s For

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Former teacher Gabe Hart writes in Tennessee Outlook that Governor Lee might want to consider another approach to filling teacher positions, and it would involve money.


At the end of each school year, a teacher’s evaluations are pooled together with standardized test scores in order to show the teacher’s overall “level of effectiveness”.  Every teacher wants to be a level four or five because there’s usually money attached to those levels even though the evaluations are incredibly subjective.  The last evaluation that’s done is an evaluation on “professionalism”.  One of the rubrics on the evaluation is titled “School and Community Involvement” and to be a level five in this area a teacher would need to do two or more of the following things:

  • Regularly organizes and leads school activities and events that positively impact school results and culture.
  • Always adheres to school and district personnel policies and serves as a leader and model for others.
  • Regularly works with peers to contribute to a safe and orderly learning environment and actively facilitates improvement in school-wide culture.

And while each of those descriptors sound incredibly positive, teachers are not monetarily compensated for any of them.

I bought into this philosophy of intrinsic value for a long time because I didn’t really know anything different.  I knew that I was tired a lot.  I knew that I would leave school and drive immediately to a surrounding county to officiate high school basketball games because I needed the extra money.  My life was such an all consuming rush that I didn’t have time to stop and think if this was normal behavior for a working professional.  After all, nearly every other teacher I worked with had a part-time job at some point during the school year.

As a teacher, I’ve had to practice active shooter drills with my students.  I’ve had to practice tornado drills and earthquake drills and what happens when the school is locked down.  I’ve had to break up countless fights and prevent a hundred more from happening.  “Just part of the job,” I would say.

But in August 2020, at the height of COVID in Tennessee, teachers were given ten extra sick days and dropped back into classrooms with some hand sanitizer and a box of paper masks.  We were told we were essential; we were necessary.  Schools had to be open so our capitalistic economy could run efficiently.

And, while I very much agree that students need to learn in schools, I also realized at that point that I’d much rather have Gov. Bill Lee throw a wad of money at me and yell “THAT’S WHAT THE MONEY’S FOR!” than pretend like he actually had one iota of an idea about the work that goes into being a teacher.

Read the full piece here.

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