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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Job Satisfaction, Not Just the Pay


Marvin Schick has a article up on his website "The World of Jewish Day Schools," about the low salaries paid to teachers (both kodesh and chol) and the difficulties that yeshiva schools in particular have in attracting qualified competent teachers. He points out that general studies were once taught by public school teachers who moonlighted. But, the pay offered are no longer attractive. He also points out that Orthodox women are less interested in working in education, low pay being a primary reason.

I would like to put forward another reason that it is hard to attract, and perhaps more importantly to retain teachers (both fulltime and part time): student behavior. To put it lightly, it can leave a lot to be desired.

Over the years I have met both Jewish and non-Jewish teachers who have given teaching a try in Orthodox schools and who express misgivings based on student behavior and will not return. I know a handful of frum public school teachers that work in public schools in some of the roughest areas who have told me that their public school students show them far more respect. I know of another frum school that lost around 6 general studies teachers in a single year. They got up and quit mid-year. I was acquainted with one non-Jewish teacher who left a frum school through another avenue and she told me the behavior was the sticking point (not the pay).

On the other hand, I know many talented teachers in Orthodox schools who most certainly could take higher paying jobs in public schools, yet they enjoy their jobs and are happy to pass on greater salary potential for the non-monetary benefits they receive.

Job satisfaction is something that cannot be valued in monetary terms. But, if schools are having a hard time attracting and retaining teachers, perhaps instead of looking at only the monetary issues, it is time to look at the bigger picture, of which monetary compensation is only one piece of the puzzle.

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A practical suggestion: Conduct exit interviews with all staff (from subs to permanent staff, from the janitor to the principal): Why are they leaving? What would entice them to stay? If they were dissatisfied with their experience, what were the causes of dissatisfaction? (Not enough support from administration, too little/too much guidance, student behavior, scheduling issues, monetary issues, etc).

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had a friend who also told me about the poor behavior he found as English teacher in a Yeshiva. He said in part it was the time of day he taught the kids (afternoon of course), but more significantly the contempt the kids had for secular studies - reinforced by their Rabbeim.

DAG said...

With 2 years experience teaching in Yeshiva Secular programs and an additional 4 working in the administrative end, I have to wonder if the problem you mention, ill behaved students, small salaries (when and if they do come), etc is not simply a symptom of a wider problem; inexperienced people trying to run complicated organizations.

I am amazed that we even wonder why there is a problem.

Take a step back. Are we really wondering how it is possible that people have spent their entire lives studying hypothetical cases without even a cursory glance at educational or organizational theory and management are having trouble running schools and organizations? We should be wondering why we ever thought them capable in the first place!

ProfK said...

The salaries are a problem of market economics. If there are people who will take jobs teaching for less then why would a school pay more, regardless of the better "product" they could get? Those with no degrees or marketable skills but who must bring in some money are more than willing to take the jobs for less money. And if they leave? Plenty more to take their places.

Yes, bad behavior on the part of pupils is also part of the problem, if by bad behavior we also include not doing homework, fooling around in class instead of concentrating on what the teacher is teaching and not caring that something is being taught. Of course there is the "regular" bad behavior such as chutpah and fighting and bad language and refusing to do what is told by the teacher. That is actually more prevalent in the boys yeshivas then in the girls' schools. And it's not all the fault of the students or of the rebbes either. Some of it can be placed squarely with the parents who respond to requests for them to talk to their sons with barely concealed sniggers. When children see contempt they respond with contempt.

And yes, there are some school administrators who have no business running schools. Their decisions are hit and miss based on a severe lack of knowledge about what a good system needs to run well. A few do okay, but that too is hit and miss.

There were and still are a very few of us with graduate degrees who taught in the yeshiva system for years. Most of us who were frum had the stubborn idea that our frum kids deserved to have teachers who knew what they were doing. Most of us were women whose husbands made up the deficit in our salaries. Some of us wanted to be on the same school schedules as our children.

What did it in for me was a "simple" matter of language. I could have dealt with being a limudei chol teacher. But the school where I taught talked about loshon kodosh teachers and goyish subject teachers. That we were all frum, and two were daughters of prominent roshei hayeshiva, was besides the point. We were all "goyish" teachers. After 12 years I threw in the towel and said no more. My friends and family wanted to know what took me so long. Unwarranted hope that the system would change perhaps?

Anonymous said...

about the low salaries paid to teachers (both kodesh and chol) and the difficulties that yeshiva schools in particular have in attracting qualified competent teachers

Salaries are not low for the hours worked and skills possessed-what could the teachers earn elsewhere.
Someone I know an administrator for a moderate Charedi school told me 5 years ago his Rabbeim earn between 40-70K. A relative of mine a macher in a non MO yeshiva told me over 20 years ago their Rebbeim were earning around 45K.
It is well known that many MO Yeshiva administrators/principal earn well over 250K.
Non profit schools that ask for contributions should disclose their salary and benefit structure and one can truly see if they are underpaid for the work done.

Mycroft

SephardiLady said...

ProfK-Don't know how you or any other general studies teacher can make it through the system with the subtle and not so subtle level of disrespect received except by possessing a level of idealism.

Mycroft above-I agree that a transparant budget should include salary ranges for all staff. If someone is willing to offer the same service for a lower pay, maybe they could bid for the job! Another item should be tuition ranges paid and number of students falling into each range. No names, just information. We always hear how underpaid teachers are, and yet there are always candidates in line.

ProfK said...

Mycroft,
There is a huge dichotomy between the salary figures you quoted for rebbeim and what female teachers of limudei kodesh make. Nor, for the most part, do the women have medical insurance as a benefit. It is available in some schools if you pay for it, but the school does not kick in any money for it.

Sephardilady,
Of course there are candidates waiting in line. Look at the more right wing schools and you find teachers with no college or sometimes a few courses. Girls with this lack of education aren't going to be making decent money any where else so why not teach and get your summers off? One teacher who was teaching science in the high school I was in had "majored" in biology in high school, gotten "A's" in her courses and was considered perfectly acceptable to teach on the high school level. Just what other kind of job did she have any qualifications for?

Lion of Zion said...

SL:

"He also points out that Orthodox women are less interested in working in education, low pay being a primary reason."

this is a problem in all schools, not just jewish schools. when fewer professional avenues were open to women, the best and brightest went into teaching. now with relative ease the highest achievers can become lawyers, doctors, Democratic nominees (?), etc.

"I know a handful of frum public school teachers that work in public schools in some of the roughest areas who have told me that their public school students show them far more respect."

i've heard this from my father, who was a teacher in an inner-city public high school with metal detectors and also moonlighted in the evenings in yeshivot.

MYCROFT:

"rabbeim earn between 40-70K. A relative of mine a macher in a non MO yeshiva told me over 20 years ago their Rebbeim were earning around 45K."

which schools are these? these numbers for those years seem exaggerated? as i've related before on this blog, i tried to get a full time job in 1998 in the flagship MO h.s. in brooklyn (if i actually have to name it, then the name probably won't mean anything anyway). the salary was about $33k. benefits did not kick in for 3 years, and even then the benefits were pretty laughable. i can't believe that a non-MO school had higher salaries--and a decade earlier to boot.

anonymous mom said...

I'm with ProfK and Lion. Having taught in Day Schools--moderate Yeshivish to MO--for about 20 years now, my observations(and skip them if you don't want to read a long post) are:
a. the Rebbes always earn significantly more than the female Limudei Kodesh teachers and the Secular Studies teachers for the same time. Occasionally, a school will pay an exceptional, well-educated Secular Studies teacher from the Public School system a handsome salary, but I'm not sure if this competes with the Rebbes.
b. the more left-wing MO, the better you will be paid as a female Limudei Kodesh teacher or Secular Studies teacher (I have been both). I'm not sure if the MO Rebbes get paid more than the Yeshivish school rebbes.
c. the Public School refugees are resistant to teaching in the more right-wing Yeshivos--specifically those of the boys--because the discipline problems have risen as the years have passed. This is as a result of the following: longer Limudei Kodesh hours, later start to Secular Studies, less respect for Secular Studies by Rebbes and parents--worse now than in years past, less to no sports permitted, general increased permissiveness in parenting styles across the board. The Chareidi trends away from college for boys and toward Israeli Chareidi elementary school standards have taken an already challenging task and made it almost impossible. Plus, where as in the past you had semi-qualified people running these schools, now you just have a Rebbe who may or may not have been good to begin with who works his way up and is willing to be a masochist to get the Kovod or a slightly bigger salary.
d. THe truth about Public Schools: much more structured than Yeshivos which automatically leads to less challenges in the classroom. A good MO school can mimic the controlled environment of a PS, but the high rate of entitlement issues and lack of respect of parents for educators in the MO world continues to make teaching their kids a greater challenge than teaching PS kids. Ask the PS refugees who currently teach in MO schools.
e. As I've said before, MO college kids are not going into education and even less into Chinuch/Limudei Kodesh. Big, big challenge for YU and the MO world in general, if you ask me. I'm waiting to hear what they are going to do about it.
f. In the Yeshivish world, due to increased numbers due to the more Chareidi trends over the years (lots and lots more babies and almost everyone wants them in right-wing schools) anyone who wants to teach, can. When one leaves, there is always a young, chipper one ready to take over for less money. In secular studies, degrees are completely unimportant and only mean higher salaries which can be a problem for some right-wing schools. In the boys' schools, it is usually male teachers who are hired which means because of a combo of a decreasing supply of PS refugees and the fact that almost no older boys are pursuing higher degrees in education, that the right-wing Yeshivos--even the moderate ones--are likely to offer abysmal levels of secular studies ed and constantly facing a revolving door of staff.
What is needed:
A major push by the MO to steer their kids toward careers in education. This should even start in the high schools with internships and outreach into elementary schools. And, money, of course.
A major push by the moderate Yeshivish parents to start schools that mimic the moderate MO Secular Studies style seriously with increased structure and the allowance of sports for boys. Earlier start to secular studies--rewind to 20 years ago-- and major outreach efforts to the parent bodies of these "model" Yeshivish schools to get everyone on board. What will the standards be? How can they be supported by parents at home? It's a pipe dream, but I believe that Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway is doing a decent job. Why not copy what works? Again, the kids are B"H being born. The parents who care just have to stop whining and put their money in Yeshivos that they are proud of and start a couple more. Also, some who are on the fence between Moderate Yeshivish and Moderate MO need to make the leap to the moderate MO schools that already exist and support them. They are afraid to do this, but that is really what they should do if they don't have the money to help start a new school. Also, and this is going to be unpopular out there in cyberspace, but attention out of towners: Beware of the well-meaning Chareidi "outreach/Chinuch" people being sent your way from parts like Lakewood and the like. They mean to take over your day schools or start competing ones which is slowly changing the out-of-town MO landscape. Again, here is a wonderful challenge/opportunity for YU Center for The Jewish Future. Help save the MO day schools across this country. With respect to those Chareidi people going out-of -town to "save Yiddishkeit," you are destroying the fabric of MO day schools and while boosting enrollment in some places, you are also changing the emphasis in the Limudei Kodesh curriculum and in the Secular Studies curriculum. And the MO world is not providing people to help build and bolster these schools so you guys fill the void. And--given current trends in the Yeshiva world--that's scary.

ProfK said...

Anonymous mom,
I agree with most everything you said except for wanting to have more yeshivas built. I believe part of the problem is that we have too many yeshivot. Every Tom, Dick and Yankel who wants to opens a yeshiva. If the "best" of the yeshivot--however we define that--were to expand and incorporate those teeny nickle and dime yeshivot there would be a savings financially, something that we also need, and a better organizational structure. This won't happen, however, because yeshivot are not just about education--they are about advancing a hashkafic/positional agenda as well.

anonymous mom said...

I know what you mean, profk, but I have to ask: how many of the current Yeshivos reflect the moderate Yeshivish person's hopes and goals? The trends swept almost all older and new Yeshivos along and with them went-I believe--quite a few moderate Yeshivish people who don't agree with the state of affairs. So, I challenge them to do one of three things: 1. move to a place with a moderate Yeshivish school like Darchei (btw, let me know where else that exists because it has faded everywhere and some who have aspired to moderate have not accomplished this--they did not model what was already in place) 2. Allow your kids to attend a moderate MO school (again, rare) 3. help start a new one modeled after Darchei.
You can't just combine all the nickel and dime Yeshivos because all of them subsribe to new trends in Chareidi Hashkafa and do not meet the standards of the middle of the road Yeshivish whose world shifted beneath their feet without their permission.

Anonymous said...

between the salary figures you quoted for rebbeim and what female teachers of limudei kodesh make.

I am quoting Rebbeim figures -female teachers very rarely have the same qualifications. Check how young many of them are-I have a chareidi niece who after maybe a year inIsrael and two at a seminary at 21 is teaching in a chareidi school. A daughter of an acquaintance of mine from schul at 19 is teaching at a MO leading HS. How much do people ofthat age earn elsewhere-itshows thaey do not demand much education to teach.

Nor, for the most part, do the women have medical insurance as a benefit.

How many jobs of less than 800 hours a year give medical benefits?

It is available in some schools if you pay for it, but the school does not kick in any money for it.

Mycroft

Anonymous said...

which schools are these?

Obviously, given that I mentioned the sources wo names-if I mentioned the schools
the sources would be obvious. Either I have credibility for my facts on the blogosphere or I don't I have posted often-people can make their own conclusions.

these numbers for those years seem exaggerated?

what I was told and BTW consistent with other knowledge that I have.

as i've related before on this blog, i tried to get a full time

how many hours a years is FT-count the days teaching times hours-not that much-certainly nowhere close to the 1800-2000 hours most workers work-forgetting professional unpaid OT.

job in 1998 in the flagship MO h.s. in brooklyn-I assume Flatbush (if i actually have to name it, then the name probably won't mean anything anyway). the salary was about $33k.-
don't know the hours your experience at the time etc-but what do you think beginners in most fields that don't have regualted supply eg physicians earn? benefits did not kick in for 3 years, and even then the benefits were pretty laughable.

BTW-the field must be pretty good-the son of the principal for over 40 years if I get the right place also became a principal and is being amply rewarded for his talents

i can't believe that a non-MO school had higher salaries

I am telling you facts.
--and a decade earlier to boot



mycroft

miriamp said...

Is this is really how yeshivas look "in-town," am I glad to live out of town! The chol teachers here are not treated with any less respect that I can see, and I certainly expect my children to complete all work for them as assigned, just as I do for the Limudei Kodesh. I don't know how well they pay -- I have heard that one new Chol teacher will not be returning next year (he was a full-year sub anyway, but they would have offered him the job to keep) because of the money, but not because of any behavior problems.

My son just returned from a Pirchei Siyum in Montreal, and he was astounded at the comparison in middos between the boys with him and a certain group from another city that was causing trouble.

(Way past) Time to start emphasizing middos and Derech Eretz in all our schools.

Anonymous said...

This won't happen, however, because yeshivot are not just about education--they are about advancing a hashkafic/positional agenda as well.

and many are family businesses

mycroft