Dr. Spilchuk – A Case of Docked Pay

♦ Dear Dr. Spilchuk (ISR online teacher consultant),Dear Barbara,

I would like to discuss an incident at work.

Every term, as per usual, our Head of department does a check of our weekly planning and also, pupil’s work scrutiny, (I.e. how detailed the feedback is).

We are forewarned about the checks. It’s not really an excuse, but because we had a lot of reports to do, I wasn’t really up to date with the planning or detailed marking.

However, when asked for weekly plans (based on departmental scheme of work), I couldn’t produce them as I hadn’t done them. The pupil work had been marked. There were some feedback comments, but not for the whole sets.

I told my head of dept that I’ll get them done for the next day. I managed to produce most of them, but not the complete set for all of my classes. The HOD then asked me to give all of the weekly plans, exam analyses, etc. a few days later. Also, I was required to write detailed lesson plans for the last week.

I met the above deadline by providing all of the required paperwork, etc.

However, to my surprise, I ended up with a formal warning letter, informing me that as I didn’t have my planner available for scrutiny and pupil work was not marked in detail, in line with school policy, that 1 weeks pay has been deducted from my salary. Also, now I will be closely monitored and failure to meet the standards will lead to dismissal.

I appreciate I made a mistake. However, as they say, the punishment should fit the crime. Maybe a warning letter was sufficient. I think they might be breaking their professional code of practice.

I might speak to the Headteacher, but he / she isn’t v approachable.

I would appreciate your advice on this matter.

Thanks.

Docked Pay

 Dear Docked Pay,
Unfortunately, if all of the teachers were warned of the consequences of not doing their weekly planning and marking and having it available for admin to review, then you have no recourse. It is, indeed, harsh. However, my advice is to accept it and do better in the future knowing full well what might happen otherwise.|
Best,

Barbara
 v
 Hi Barbara,
Yes, I definitely plan to do the right thing. However, the above sanction is not stated in the contract and we weren’t warned about this sanction.

 Dear Docked Pay,
Then you need to discuss this with the Chairman of the Board. Keep me posted. This is an important case.
Best,
Barbara
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17 Responses to Dr. Spilchuk – A Case of Docked Pay

  1. delores says:

    Dear Docked Pay,
    Are you working in Kuwait? I once worked at a school in Kuwait (now infamous for letting a fugitive from India wanted on sex charges work at their school with a fake passport, fake credentials and a fake name) where lesson plans and other assorted assignments for teachers were based on your likability factor with administration. Some teachers got away with doing next to nothing and some teachers faced grueling expectations. It appears to me that someone in administration (wherever you are teaching) has it out for you. There is a chance you might not get your final paycheck in June. I would start looking for a new job immediately. I would depart your school during your next break.
    Also, teachers and workers in all fields get paid if they did their job, even if someone thinks they could have done a better job. It is slavery to force people to work for no income. Wherever you are, you should report this to the local Ministry or government office of education. Getting a local lawyer is an option.
    Also, someone mentioned reporting this to the IRS. Does the IRS track bad schools who do not pay their American or non-American teachers? If so, where do I find this information on the IRS website?

  2. ParadigmExplorer says:

    To answer the question, “I have to wonder why expecting planning to be completed to a competent level in advance of instruction is such a hot topic!”

    -because all too often, administrators who want “competent planning” are by and large incompetent people trying to satisfy a “tick box” required by yet another incompetent person higher up on the ladder.

    -because all too often, the hoops teachers are required to jump through to produce these plans are often a direct hindrance in that the time it took to jump through the hoop could that could be used to promote actual instruction. We seem to have forgotten the purpose of planning is to help the teacher; it has devolved into helping the administrator “tick a box” and that is wrong.

    -because the concept of “daily plans” is beginning to be thought of as an outdated concept by forward thinking people. A great article that addressing this can be found here

    http://edge.ascd.org/blogpost/ditch-the-daily-lesson-plan

    Another outstanding article in this regard can be found here:

    http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/blog/the-tyranny-of-lesson-plans

    -because, to the best of my knowledge, neither Socrates nor Jesus produced daily lesson plans, but their lessons are still remembered thousands of years later, unlike the majority of lessons ticked as “acceptable” to some nameless, faceless education bureaucrat, who mostly likely couldn’t produce an education outcome that would be remembered by students for a 1000 seconds, must less, thousands of years.

    I hope that helps answer your query.

  3. ParadigmExplorer says:

    To answer the question, “I have to wonder why expecting planning to be completed to a competent level in advance of instruction is such a hot topic!”

    -because all to often, administrators who want “competent planning” are by and large incompetent people trying to satisfy a “tick box” required by yet another incompetent person higher up on the ladder.

    -because all to often, the hoops teachers are required to jump through to produce these plans are often a direct hindrance in that the time it took to jump through the hoop could that could be used to promote actual instruction. We seem to have forgotten the purpose of planning is to help the teacher; it has devolved into helping the administrator “tick a box” and that is wrong.

    -because the concept of “daily plans” is beginning to be thought of as an outdated concept by forward thinking people. A great article that addressing this can be found here

    http://edge.ascd.org/blogpost/ditch-the-daily-lesson-plan

    Another outstanding article in this regard can be found here:

    http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/blog/the-tyranny-of-lesson-plans

    -because, to the best of my knowledge, neither Socrates nor Jesus produced daily lesson plans, but their lessons are still remembered thousands of years later, unlike the majority of lessons ticked as “acceptable” to some nameless, faceless education bureaucrat, who mostly likely couldn’t produce an education outcome that would be remembered by students for a 1000 seconds, must less, thousands of years.

    I hope that helps answer your query.

  4. Kat says:

    It sounds to me like the school is trying to get rid of you and needed some documentation. Time to look for a new job.

  5. Dr. Barbara Spilchuk says:

    When I was a principal, teachers had to provide their year plans by end of September to me and their unit plans before each unit started. Day Plans were required for every class and teachers were responsible to produce them on demand. Teachers kept a portfolio that tracked all of this planning. The reality of the situation still is that in Canada, teachers are responsible for both planning and implementation of the curriculum to core students and Special Needs students. As a principal, I also had to do planning that was required by Central Office monthly and yearly. And at the University, as a professor, I was responsible to provide course outlines and lesson plans two months in advance of instruction beginning to my Faculty Department Head. I have to wonder why expecting planning to be completed to a competent level in advance of instruction is such a hot topic!

    • Mike says:

      I think it’s obvious…international teaching and what schools overseas expect. Comparing Canada to overseas is like apples to oranges…

      • Dr. Barbara Spilchuk says:

        True, Mike. However, the same requirements applied in Kuwait when I was there as well as in Singapore. Good planning allows teachers to be more flexible in the classroom in dealing with student needs. That is just basic good sense. I would wish for this school to mentor this teacher with more reasonability than docked pay, but the fact remains that like any other job, teachers must plan…they are responsible for ensuring that the curriculum is covered so that students receive the best education possible.

    • Bananas says:

      Dear Dr Barbara

      You are absolutely right that teachers need to plan and also track their plans – but there are occasional emergencies (fire alarms, schools closed due bad weather, events concerning children in the class) that interrupt and then they need to adjust/adapt. Children are not robots.

      I don’t think the issue here is the planning … the issue is whether the response (i.e., docking pay) was unreasonable when the teacher had negotiated to have a little more time and met the new demand, particularly when reports were also suddenly due that week. It is not clear how much notice ‘Docked Pay’ was given for the reports.

      The three international schools I have worked in consistently made these types of sudden demands at very short notice. One also threatened staff with monetary fines – although I don’t believe these were ever applied.

    • Anon says:

      Thank goodness I don’t work in Canada! I am Head of a large and successful international school, and of course there is a professional expectation that teachers plan properly – individually and in their weekly grade level meetings. Our units are set out on line as are expectations expressed in terms of core standards. However, I wouldn’t think of telling teachers to submit their lesson plans for the following week – much less for the entire year. That isn’t how education works in a creative, inquiry-based classroom. More to the point, just reading a lesson plan gives no indication as to whether the teaching will be of an acceptable standard. In good schools, administrators spend enough time in classrooms every day to see if children are receiving a high quality education. They don’t spend their time obsessing over reams of largely worthless paperwork.

      • ParadigmExplorer says:

        Anon (who is Head of a large and successful international school)

        Please see my Dec. 19th, 9:41am post.

        And thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • Austin says:

      Anyone who just regurgitates a lesson plan is not teaching. A
      lesson plan is a guide. A good teacher is constantly making adjustments as he/she teaches. Thus, lesson plans are constantly changing.

    • A.G says:

      I think, Dr. Spilchuk, your answer is a bit misleading. You know that education in Canada is a provincial mandate, not a federal one; as such, rules, regulations, standards and indeed implementation vary-often even within provinces. The wording of your reply implies that your policy at the school where you principal is somehow uniform across the entire country. As far as I know, it isn’t. I personally know educators who walked into their classrooms with their entire day planned out on a single B4 sheet of paper. To my knowledge, your policy at your school in Province A was not policy at that school in Province B.

      Unless this has changed, of course. If your policy of submitting yearly, unit and lesson plans on specific dates is now a federal policy that is implemented at every school in Canada, I stand corrected.

  6. Mike says:

    If they would dock your pay for such a trivial infraction, then they might actually find something to fire you for. You should start looking for a better position and then just leave. There are many schools that would not be so demanding and/or quick to cheat you of your earnings. Make sure you email every administrator and CC every coworker explaining why you are leaving (but don’t send this email until you are actually gone or maybe on your last day). Maybe the management might wise up and treat your coworkers better to avoid losing more. Yes I know it is bad to break a contract and leave during the school year, but if teachers like us accept this treatment then we are condoning it. I have never broken a contract but I would in this case. As long as I found a better job anyways….

  7. Mark Brierley says:

    I think you could also add the following to the information that needs improving on the website:

    1. The Mission Statement rambles. It seems to be defined at least twice and both these definitions and the goals seem different. It gives the impression that the school doesn’t know what it is about as it can’t state them clearly and succinctly. About us? 2. Many of the links on the left are essentially useless. They often lead to a single line or paragraph of information which implies that the school hasn’t actually thought about what it is doing. For instance, clicking management leads to no information about a broad of Directors (Who are they?) who formulate policy (What are the policies?) and a council who do supervisory management (in what capacities and how is this done?). Another link leads to an Advisory Committee (What is their purpose? How do they relate to the Directors and council?). 3. Please run spell checker over the text. There are so many errors. 4. I would change the photographs you are using as well. The people heating the round bottom flask have no eye safety protection. The classroom of children all raising their hands implies that students are regurgitating simple factual answers. I can’t see any thought processes involved. They also look miserable.

    Hope that helps a little.

    >

  8. Bananas says:

    Although I don’t know the details about Docked Pay’s school, I too have experienced eye-opening work situations where ‘the management’ (in both schools, consisting of people without teaching qualifications or classroom experience) pile on the administrivial demands at very short notice. Examples include: producing a year’s worth of IB unit planners and summative assessment tasks within 48 hours, student reports with 24 hours notice, demanding weekly book marks of teachers with up to 21 different classes (these are teachers of subjects which are taught for 1 hour of the timetable each week), demanding folders of printed off PowerPoint presentations and worksheets for every lesson taught by teachers, every week, and so forth.

    In the game of education, I found teachers who were able to meet the demands, generally required students to produce work of low intellectual quality (e.g., worksheets, coloring in, cloze sentences), but they consistently ‘ticked the boxes’ and were rewarded by excellent appraisals by their management. Reflective educators concerned with the learning process, who wanted their students to demonstrate sustained development on a task over several weeks, and to plan collaboratively with their colleagues, completed their contracts and left. Education is a complex profession, and new owners who assume a business model can be simply imposed to deliver learning, also need educating.

    From what you state, I suspect I know which camp your school supports. You are probably working with amateurs.

    As for docking pay without warning or notice – that is illegal. If you are a national, your country’s labor laws should protect you. If you are not, get on the IRS paid site, name the school and warn off others.

    • Joe C says:

      I think the docked pay is absolutely wrong. However, a warning notice is the more appropriate response. Also, ‘Bananas’ writes about the IRS. That sounds like an American response. The school described by docked pay sounds like it is “British”-like. There is a difference in expectations. As an American in a British school, I can tell you that reports and planning is expected to be much more detailed. Not making excuses, but this is the type of experience that should be written in a review of the school to help potential teachers be more prepared during this recruitment season. Good luck and talk to the Principal or Board or school owner (depending on your school’s set up.)

      • Wizzy says:

        @Joe C. Interesting statement you made. I am American but I taught in British Schools for four years.
        I am now at an ‘American’ school and I am adjusting to lack paperwork, follow through and pastoral care.

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