"My only disappointment was the price (of your programs) -- $650? I would think $100 an hour should be enough ... for a school. I didnít think we should have spent that much." From a teacher at a middle school where I did a "double header" -- two assemblies back-to-back -- last week.
After school gigs, I leave program evaluation forms and stamped envelopes with one or two teachers who were there, hoping theyíll find the time and the inclination to fill them out and let me know their take on the dayís festivities. I get a pretty good return -- about 50%. These comments mean a lot to me; I take them seriously.
The teacher who wrote the statement above signed her name. And I think she deserves a reply. Because truly, $325/hour ... plumbers donít even make that much money.
Dear Sticker Shock --
I understand your dismay at the size of the paycheck I took home, especially considering the current economic climate. $650? For two assemblies? Iíd like to address your concern with a "compare and contrast" exercise.
When I was a newly minted childrenís librarian making my first contacts with the local teachers, I remember being surprised to learn that teachers didnít go home for the summer on the last day of school. There was still a lot of work to do after the kids went home. And in the fall, weeks before the first day of school, the teachers were back at work. Their cars were already in the school parking lots when I drove past on my way to work; and many of those same cars were still there when I drove home.
Sometimes patrons at the library who saw how busy we librarians were would tell me, "You shoulda gone into teaching. They only work 9 months a year, spring break and two weeks at Christmas, and they get to go home early every day." I confess, I had once harbored that same belief. But now I knew better. Tip of the iceberg. Thatís what John Q. Public sees of the teaching profession.
Iím sure youíve caught my drift here. What you saw last week in the gym with your students is the tip of my iceberg.
In your comments about the 6th grade assembly you wrote that my stories from World War II "really fit the curriculum and maybe opened some eyes." Thank you. I worked long and hard to craft those stories into a form that would speak to people who had lived through the era, as well as kids growing up in an entirely different world. And after I crafted those stories, I spent more time crafting the telling of them. Years. Iíve been living with those stories and working on those stories for years.
Next to the creative facet of my work lies the administrative facet of making a living at it -- phone calls, scheduling, paperwork, following up on paperwork, record keeping, staying in touch, follow up after the event. Iím my own agent, secretary, bookkeeper, supervisor, and artistic director...and Director of H.R. responsible for pension planning and insurance benefits. All told (or is it "all tolled"?) I spend 40-60 hours a week on being the best storyteller I can be, the most assertive agent I have the nerve to be, and an efficient enough office manager to keep my taxes paid, stay current on my bills and not let my insurance lapse. Iíd love to make $100/hour -- just as I bet youíd love to work 9 months a year and leave work at 3:00 pm every afternoon.
I thank you for taking the time and spending the energy to write your responses to the questions on my evaluation form. I thank you for your frankness and for expressing what was on your mind. I doubt if Iíve changed your thinking. But it did feel good to frankly express these thoughts that are on my mind. And I thank you for sparking those thoughts.
P.S. I spoke with all the middle school librarians in your district about my programs, and when I told them my rates, at least half of them remarked, "Goodness! Youíre certainly reasonable." Iím right in the middle of the ballpark for Northern Virginia and most of the Mid-Atlantic states.