Teachers Need To Speak Up

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - October 21, 2009

There is hardly a person who does not agree that teachers are invaluable to our community. As parents, this truism is undeniable.

An unfortunate consequence of the recent HSTA contract negotiation is the creation of a deeper chasm between those who believe teachers are sacrosanct and those who believe they are ingrates when complaining about pay and benefits.

The actual or perceived resentment is misguided. The teachers should not receive the arrows of the public or parents. I believe the vast majority of teachers are passionate and consider their commitment a “calling.” It’s a stretch to think that someone scans the classifieds saying, “You know, I think I’ll be a teacher today.” Not likely.


That’s not to say there are some teachers who no longer deliver passion and commitment to their everyday jobs. The erosion of morale, frustrations with unruly and ill-prepared students, and a lack of support by management can take their toll. And let’s face it. With more than 13,000 public school teachers, there will inevitably be a few who are just plain bad.

There has always been some hard feeling by those who view teachers as over-compensated for their efforts. Critics cite a 12-month salary for 10 months of work.

Teachers seem to have days off all the time. Vacations during the school year, summer breaks, professional and personal days all add up.And all are paid. To the regular working man and woman who won’t get paid if they don’t show up, a bit of occupational envy is understandable.

But does one consider that a teacher’s day starts well before the first bell and ends long after the 9-5’er wraps at the office? It’s not unusual for teachers to serve as tutors, chaperones and counselors. They attend sporting events, plays, science fairs and volunteer in the community. It’s legendary in Hawaii that teachers supplement their classrooms with their own cash. How many of you kick in a few bucks for supplies at your office?

The point is that teachers do deserve our respect and a standard of living commensurate with their talent and contributions.

But teachers must respond when their leaders in the HSTA, DOE and BOE make shrill and controversial statements. Teachers cannot expect unilateral support from the public if they appear to be duplicitous. It’s easy to recognize the “cake and eat it too” crowd. The rank-and-file teachers have a voice and they should use it.

I assure you we, and their union leaders, will be listening.

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