Saturday, January 15, 2011

Where Is Our Teacher?

Where Is Our Teacher?

Where is our teacher? This is a question students and parents ask whenever the classroom teacher is out. Student absenteeism is something that every school battles. Another attendance issue that schools face is that of teacher absenteeism. In a recent administrator’s meeting teacher attendance was brought up and it was reported that last year if we just took the teachers who missed 10 or more days (these were a combination of sick, personal, or professional leave) equaled to 39 years of teaching lost in a single year. The financial burden teacher absenteeism has on a district a major problem, but that does not compare to the other issues that are raised.

Like it or not teachers serve as role models and influence students’ perceptions about acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Research shows that teacher absenteeism negatively affects student performance. It also affects the attendance of the students. Chronic teacher absenteeism sends an underlying message that school attendance is not important. With the push to reform education and increase teacher quality, we must look at finding ways to improve teacher attendance.

What To Do?

There is a big push for districts to review their teacher attendance policies and provide principals more autonomy when it comes to dismissing teachers with chronic attendance issues. I believe that schools and districts address two issues: 1)Work to make educators (teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators) aware of the importance of work attendance and its effect on student performance and 2) Encourage district policymakers to better implement and supplement existing policies through different strategy options. Focus on incentive-based systems rather than a punitive approach.

Just like attendance incentives schools give students who regularly are at school, why not provide teachers with incentives. I suggest those teachers who have perfect attendance receive a financial incentive from the district. Other ideas could be that teachers would be able to sell unused days back to the district. There may be those who say that this would push a district’s already tight budget further out. The example I have is that in our district every day a teacher is out costs us over $200.00 (salary , benefits and retirement). If we took some of that money and placed it in a fund that could be distributed to those who have a good attendance record. This would not alleviate teacher absenteeism, but it would decrease it. It would also save the district money.

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