SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) – When people think of teachers, there is a large split amongst the country. That split is support, or no support.
While some do see the immense value of our educators, others turn a cold shoulder and fail to understand what their jobs entail.
Many people think of teachers just standing in front of a classroom and lecturing a lesson. What people don’t take into account is the constant stress and struggle it takes to get the job done. That job is to make a difference for children and direct them in the right path.
In the Syracuse City School District, that struggle is astounding. With a large number of kids to take care of, it becomes much more than just teaching. Teachers are forced to handle behavior issues and mental aspects that students bring from homes, particularly unsafe living environments.
“They don’t get the credit and the respect they deserve,” said Syracuse Teachers Association President, William Scott. “I can’t say enough about the commitment of our staff. They go above and beyond.”
Teachers and administration in the City of Syracuse face an overwhelming number of homeless children (6%), students with disabilities (20%), and students who’s first language is not English (14%). Not to mention the incredible lack of budget which is mostly funded through state aid (80%).
“We have students that we struggle to support. Those students need more than we’re able to give them to be successful. So we have situations where we are jamming square pegs into round holes,” said Scott. “I’d invite them (outsiders) to take a day to work in our shoes.”
Yet, teacher commitment is being judged based on statistics that show a large increase in teacher absences in the last two years.
A report surfaced that 44 percent of teachers in the Syracuse City School District missed eight or more days in the 2018-19 school year. A number that was up 39 percent from the previous year.
“I question the data,” said Scott. “It’s based on a computer that just totals straight absences, instead of looking into the legitimate reasons for absences, which include illness and mental health…it’s a failing system that needs to be corrected.”
The school district has been attempting to crack down on the amount of days teachers are given off, yet that didn’t stop last year’s numbers. Some think that teachers are getting too many personal and sick days and taking advantage of them. That’s something they are trying to figure out.
“We need to understand why it is that people might have attendance that is pulling them out of the classroom more frequently than they should be,” said Syracuse City School District Chief Human Resource Officer, Christopher Miller. “Attendance matters. There’s a definite connection between student attendance and being present every day and staff being present to assist our students.”
Although it seems that the school district are the sticklers on teacher absence, some like Miller, still do praise the teachers in the district for all that they do. That’s something the report did not do.
“What the article lacked to do was the human side of this complex issue,” said Miller. “Teachers are actually doing a good job of hanging onto those sick days…teachers are committed to the work that they do. Working in an urban school district is particularly challenging.”
So it comes down to the debate on whether teachers are handed too many days off in a job field that already gets months off during the year for breaks and how their absence affects the children learning.
For William Scott, he believes that the teachers are put through so much on any day that there will be absences. There will be days where they are too ill to perform the way they want to. At the end of the day, it’s about creating the best environment for the students and forming their path along the way.
Scott could not be more proud of the district’s teachers.
“They chose to do this work. They chose to be an urban educator because they wanted to make a difference in children’s lives,” said Scott. “Hopefully we can collaborate with the district more to support teachers when they need to take a day off.”