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Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers Hardcover – June 29, 2005

3.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This book provides a punchy, thoughtful look at the issues surrounding teacher salaries in the public school system. And while it is openly biased on the subject-the authors see salary reform as the best way to ameliorate many of the problems facing America's public schools-this bias never compromises its even-handed consideration of the current debate. In part, this is because the authors wisely ground the book in the words and experiences of teachers themselves. The stories of high ideals and hard work compromised by the brutal conditions facing teachers speak for themselves, allowing the authors to make their points by interspersing short passages that highlight the key issues raised by the vignettes. Whether or not one agrees with their solutions, their characterization of the problem is spot-on. Perhaps more valuable, however, is their detailed discussion of actual school reform initiatives. Unlike most of the problems treated here-low pay and little respect for teachers or resource shortages in public schools-these incentives will not be familiar to most readers. Each of them take different approaches to the problems facing public schools and have had varying degrees of success, but all of them illustrate the gains that can be made when committed educators and policymakers work together with shared goals and community support. It's no accident that the book winds up with this informative consideration of solutions (nor that it provides a rich bibliography for further reading as well as contact lists of reform-minded school districts, teacher recruitment agencies and a variety of educational organizations) because in the end it is less a complaint than a call to action, one that will appeal to a wide body of readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


An argument for righting such appalling wrongs. -- Sarah Vowell, This American Life commentator and author of The Partly Cloudy Patriot

Should be required reading on Air Force One. -- Michael Chabon

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 355 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; First Edition edition (June 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565849558
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565849556
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #949,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book combines statistic and qualitative data to give readers a frank and unsparing portrait of American education. For all of the talk about 'standards' and 'accountability' America expects its teachers to do so much with very little.

Teachers are horribly paid for all of the work which they are expected to do--and their responsibilities keep on growing. This is madness.

In my own home state of Texas, school teacher salaries are determined by the local property tax paid in individual districts. The 'local control' which is promised under this arrangement sounds great until we realize that teachers are also expected to be a counselor...etc but do not get any extra compensation for these assignments. Well-heeled school districts and schools are the exception and not the rule inside public education.

That America presently has the amount of public school teachers which it does is more testament to their idealism of wanting to make the world a little better place rather than the 'benefits'. It is a travesty that our country has teachers starving themselves (and their families) while ensuring that a community's children are being taken care of.

After seeing what neighbors, friends, and the people inside this book go through, I am convinced that public school teachers are among the closest things which America has to saints. I am also concerned that the public policy discrepancies which are painstakingly illustrated by the authors will continue festering unless concrete action is undertaken.
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Format: Hardcover
I've developed a deep appreciation for Dave Eggers and his work ever since I first stumbled upon A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Since that time, his credibility has grown on a national level, and this current book should only bolster his reputation as an advocate of teacher and the teaching profession.

Most critics have pointed out that this book's biggest asset is its use of actual narratives from today's (and yesterday's) teachers. Though the argument of the book is clearly one sided, the whole thing is much more palatable when you read of the struggles and roller coaster rides of teaching through educators' mouths.

Although I felt it my duty to read this book as a teacher, I would strongly encourage any person who is involved with politics or public office to read this book too, and furthermore, to get really angry over what you read. This book may be biased in that it doesn't even so much as mention the slew of bad teachers in our workforce, but it will sure as hell make you pull for the ones that do their job with an astounding level of conviction and purpose. Maybe more than anything, it will heat up the debate on the teaching profession and provide a catalyst for change sooner rather than later.
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Format: Hardcover
Any of us in teaching understand how difficult a job it is, how little recognition for our efforts we receive and how little respect from our peers we garner, yet it is difficult to argue with comments like "you're done at 3:00" "you have the entire summer off" "I'd just treat those kids like my own."

Finally a book that explains that none of us are done at 3:00, we need the summer off to recoup and reenergize and those kids are not our own. Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers allows teachers a forum to describe their day, asks experts in a variety of fields to explain exactly what teachers do and how, and examines ways schools are changing to validate that teaching is a profession worth paying quality people to go into.

Especially illuminating is the chart in Chapter Seven: "A Day in the Life" in which a teacher's day is compared to the day of a salesperson making twice the salary. No where have I found such compelling evidence that teaching is much more difficult than asking students to open books and answer questions.

This is a must read for everyone in the profession, anyone contemplating going into the profession and everyone who has any say to how teachers are paid, from voters to legislatures to district policy makers. Buy a copy, read it, pass it on.
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Format: Paperback
The authors of Teachers Have It Easy promise that it won't be a chicken-soup-for-the-soul book, and they sure deliver on that promise. I found the book on the whole to be depressing and discouraging. First of all because, as a teacher I am already aware of the difficulties and sacrifices inherent in the job. Second of all because the book offers very little in the way of hope or practical advice.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not looking for more chicken-soup stories. I find them to be depressing as well, because they tend to gloss over the real difficulties this job entails. They reinforce the perception that teaching is a "special" job in which teachers find their fulfillment in that tiny breakthrough that comes along once every three years.

I am a fifteen year veteran who has had my share of breakthoughs and made my share of connections. I have twice been selected by former students for inclusion in Who's Who Among American High School Teachers; I have been selected as Teacher of the Year; I am respected by my peers, the community, and even most of my students. And yet I would leave the profession tomorrow if I could. The reason has very little to do with money, which seems to be the main thrust of this book. I teach in Michigan, which has consistently ranked near the top in the nation for teachers' salaries coupled with cost of living. My community is the headquarters of two major corporations (one a chemical producer; one a silicon products producer), and my district is one of the best in the state, so the job is better paid than most teaching positions. I earn just under $80 000, but mine is the only income for our family of four.
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