From the Anash.org Inbox: Many schools have the practice of giving teachers a significant bonus to help cover Pesach expenses. It’s greatly appreciated, but it’s nonetheless demeaning and fundamentally flawed.
By a past teacher
Many schools have the practice before Pesach of giving teachers a significant bonus to help cover Pesach expenses. Some will even run a campaign to raise money for the teachers.
Of course, this is a kind act by the school’s administration and donors who appreciate the teachers’ plight. These people step forward and support their teachers out of the generosity of their hearts.
But if we consider it from an objective perspective, we will realize how demeaning and absurd it is.
If we look around, we will notice that no one is running a campaign to raise funds for bonuses for successful bookkeepers or business managers in a company. Why then are bonuses needed for a successful rebbi? This isn’t just for an individual teacher who’s going through a tough time, but for tens of capable and successful teachers.
The reason is sadly well known: our teachers are severely underpaid. So rather than raise their to match that of the plumber – which when done right, teaching takes more skill and is more taxing – administrations choose to give the teacher a “gift” to help.
As a past teacher, I can tell you that this is extremely demeaning. Of course, we need the money and we take it eagerly, but it makes us feel second-rate.
Some will call such an attitude “ungrateful.” I call this “taking advantage of the finest of our young men and women who are willing to make a sacrifice for the future of our children.” As a community, we should admire that, and not take advantage of these dedicated individuals.
I applaud well-meaning administrators and board members for their sincere efforts in securing these much-needed funds. But I also think that we need to rethink how we view and treat teachers. We need to make sure that teachers are paid respectfully like any other service without the need to rely on “Pesach gifts.”
This topic is also critical for the future of our children. When we begin to pay our teachers properly, we will start to see more people going into chinuch. It’s not just the money. Teachers’ pay is a statement about how much we think teachers are worth.