Teaching Fair Labor

The Message Behind the Teacher Slowdown

by Becca Sampson, a seven-year veteran of the Santa Barbara
School District who currently teaches at La Colina Junior High

For the third year in a row, Santa Barbara teachers are in an
infuriating conflict with our district about our salaries. With
medical costs and the cost of living in this expensive town on a
continual rise, the Santa Barbara School District has offered us an
offensive 1.5 percent salary increase and remains stubbornly
unsympathetic to our pleas for compromise. We live in one of the
priciest cities in California, working without a contract or a COLA
(Cost-of-Living Allowance), and we watch helplessly as our
colleagues in neighboring Goleta, Montecito, Ventura, and Santa
Maria receive adequate raises for their professional work.

In light of these frustrations, I would like to clarify the
concept of a teacher slowdown. During a slowdown, teachers conduct
all weekly duties for which we are paid. This includes teaching
classes, submitting grades, and planning lessons. This also
includes formal homework tutorial programs before school, at
lunchtime, and after school. During a slowdown, we attend all
meetings required by our contract. We are also present on campus
during the hours required by our contract. We help students with
their homework. We make parent phone calls. We continue to
collaborate with colleagues and provide the quality education our
students have been receiving for decades.

A great deal of this quality education, however, happens “off
the clock.” It happens before school when a teacher opens his/her
classroom to allow a child to use the computer or to clarify a
homework assignment. It happens when a teacher devotes his/her
lunchtime to weekly student chess tournaments. It happens when
teachers conduct nighttime informational meetings for parents,
giving an overview of their students’ co-curricular research
projects and presentations. It happens every school day, every
week, all school year long.

The purpose of a slowdown is not to punish our students, nor is
it to show our students all that we do for them above and beyond
our job descriptions. Students already know this about their
teachers. They know that on any given day, in addition to being
teacher, we also play surrogate cheerleader, counselor, parent,
warden, sounding board, and friend. Students know what we are
worth, and they support us in our endeavor for adequate
compensation. In essence, our students understand us best,
certainly better than our superintendent and the Santa Barbara
School Board.

During a slowdown, we mean to demonstrate to parents, the
community, and our district all of the weekly activities we conduct
for which we are not paid. These activities include voluntarily
conducting student clubs at lunchtime, opening the classroom before
and after school hours to assist individual students, remaining in
the classroom during lunchtime to give students a place to hang out
or work on assignments, and attending the myriad meetings not
designated in our contract. A slowdown is our way of saying to the
district, “Your offer of a 1.5 percent COLA does not match the
quantity and quality of work we already provide. We deserve to be
comparably compensated as our colleagues in neighboring

But I’ll be honest. I’m skeptical of the effect of a slowdown. A
slowdown is voluntary, and not all teachers participate. It is
difficult and upsetting for many of us to say, “No, we will not be
having a club meeting this week — again,” or, “No, I will not be
available at lunchtime to help you with your homework.” And since
we have been mandated not to discuss these salary negotiations with
students or parents during school hours, our decision to cease
providing these unpaid duties may feel unfounded.

Furthermore, students and parents may not even feel the effect
of these repercussions. My Writer’s Club students have been
gracious about our lack of meetings during the past month, and I’m
not sure if they share this information with their parents at all.
Similarly, when my colleagues and I were absent from the Parent
Night designed to present our academic programs to the parents of
next year’s seventh graders, I had to recognize that these parents
of current sixth graders noticed nothing out of the ordinary about
our absence. Most didn’t even know we were supposed to be there.
Unless we can clearly and publicly explain what we are doing and
why, we will continue to face vague opposition and apathy.

Please support Santa Barbara teachers in our endeavor to
publicize our frustrations with the Santa Barbara School District.
We continue to serve this community with unwavering grace and
professionalism while we fight for the right to be adequately
compensated for all the work we do.


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