Teacher says faculty is overworked

Bubb teacher says instructors are hard-pressed to cope with added duties, students

Increased class sizes, a longer school day, stacks of new paperwork and more special needs children -- accompanied by fewer dedicated aides -- are all adding up to be a burdensome equation for local elementary school instructors, according to a teachers' union official.

"We're trying to accomplish too many things in too short an amount of time," said Kathy Patterson, the Mountain View Educators Association representative for Benjamin Bubb Elementary School. "It's overwhelming."

Patterson, who teaches first grade at Bubb, said she has to work 60 hours a week to keep up with the Mountain View Whisman School District's requirements.

At a district board meeting on Oct. 21, Patterson addressed the Mountain View Whisman school board and administration, telling them that she and her colleagues are overworked. In a sign of support, teachers in the audience gave her a standing ovation, which lasted about a minute.

"I acknowledge that teachers are working very hard," Craig Goldman, the district superintendent, said. "That being said, our primary responsibility is to service children and ensure their success."

Ensuring the success of students in the district, he said, "is very hard work."

This year, in a cost-saving measure, kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade teachers have seen their class sizes increase by an average of five students.

The new district-wide bell schedule, which was designed to streamline bus routes and cut down on traffic, means that Patterson's school day is now 15 minutes longer than it was last year.

Patterson was particularly critical of the school district's system for tracking classroom improvement, known as Plan, Do, Study, Act, or PDSA.

The new district system requires Patterson to identify a subject area in her curriculum that is in need of improvement at the beginning of each month, set an improvement goal, articulate that goal to district officials as well as students, and achieve the goal before each month's end. This, Patterson said, requires copious amounts of paperwork and takes away from time that could be spent on regular lesson plans.

On top of that, Patterson said, an increase in the number of special needs students in her classroom has proven to be a hurdle.

"It's very, very difficult," she said.

Patterson said she recognizes that there is room for improvement in her classroom and in district schools overall. She disagrees with the district's approach, however.

"We're trying to accomplish too many things in a short amount of time," Patterson said. "We're just feeling like we're scattered."

The solution, according to Patterson, is to "take a few things off the teacher's plate," and work on one goal over a longer period of time. "If we could have one big focus for everyone, it would really help everyone out."

Goldman acknowledged that the PDSA system is new and that perhaps some kinks could be worked out. However, Goldman believes it is important insofar as it helps the district achieve the educational markers set by the state. He said that PDSA is not unreasonable or fundamentally flawed in any way.

"I don't think that at a core level PDSA and instructional planning are inconsistent with what needs to happen to ensure quality instruction and successful outcomes for children," he said.

While Goldman acknowledges the challenges posed by special needs children being mainstreamed into regular classes, "I think the district is doing an excellent job with its special education operation. But we are always looking toward improving the quality of education for all of our children."

Overworked teachers


Like this comment
Posted by denny
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Nov 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm

the new MV-Wishman school district PDSA seems like a waste of teachers time, it is very unreasonable to expect teachers to have 25% more kids in the class, accommodate more special needs kids, and set/accomplish new goals each month. Give the teachers a break and let them focus on handling the larger work load.

Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Castro City
on Nov 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I come from generations of educators and chose not to be one for the above stated reasons. The paperwork and cooked-up ideas that teachers have all this extra time on their hands is ludicrous. One month for improving a special area of concern is unrealistic. Every 3 months might be better but with oversight from others than the classrom teacher. That is what the administrators are for.

There is no easy answer for this problem and all schools have issues depending on their population makeup. Children these days are not the Cleavers of the 50's. Teachers are often classroom cops that spend much of their day maintaining some semblance of order in addition to educating the kids according to the guidelines they have been given. Breathe deeply teachers, this will not end any time soon.

Like this comment
Posted by Leia
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm

I feel for the teachers. It is a hard job to start, but to be used to a small class size and have it increased makes it harder. (Not so long ago, the classes were much bigger than they are now).

And, of course, having more special needs kids makes the job that much harder. But, of course, it is because we have more special needs kids. Maybe what we are doing to our environment?

I did not particularly like Ms.Patterson's solution however. Not every teacher needs to get better in the same area - just like every child does not need help in the same area. I think that Susan's solution of 1 goal per trimester might be more helpful. You cannot just complain that you don't like PDSA recognizing that your classroom and the district has room for improvement.

By the way, I disagree with Susan's estimation of classrooms these days: "Teacher are often classroom cops that spend much of their day maintaining order..." If that is true, the teacher needs to be fired. At our school, our teachers are not cops and do not spend very much time at all maintaining order. You set the rules and are consistent with the consequences.

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 5, 2010 at 4:31 pm

PDSA is the legacy of Ghysels and his games, all designed to impose a corporate culture on classrooms. On top of it all, teachers are constantly being shifted from one grade to another by a district office that has no concept of planning and what it takes to promote stability. From what I've observed, it's the bureaucrats in the district office that need PDSA more than teachers.

Like this comment
Posted by You forgot something
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 5, 2010 at 5:55 pm

One thing that Ms. Patterson forgot to mention is the help received by MANY involved parents which obviously reduces a lot the "work load" of the teacher. About children with special needs, I must add that MVWSD is not doing enough for them. Those children's needs are often ignored, and I'm not talking about teachers ignoring them (although they could try to learn more about them), I'm rather talking about the administrators, trying to save money for the district denying services and undermining the importance of receiving appropriate educacion for everyone.

Like this comment
Posted by Ellen
a resident of Whisman Station
on Nov 6, 2010 at 9:17 am

"Involved" parents can at times create even more work for teachers, not less.

Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 6, 2010 at 9:40 am

"PDSA" sounds a little too much like "PTSD", figuratively and otherwise.

"Lean", "Kaizen", "Operational Excellence", "6 sigma", "Balanced Scorecard", I've seen too many business organizations exert these philosophies on their workers when actually what was needed was a dose of true leadership, starting with leading by example.

The problem with most of these strategies is that they are most effective on organizations that have already reached a certain level of performance, and are just looking for something to provide incremental improvements.

If the problem with your organization is structural, or if you have other big gaps, employing one of these strategies is like painting before priming.

If the school district really wants to make improvements using a business strategy, then they should consider starting with this one:

"Pick the low hanging fruit first."

Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2010 at 5:54 am

I am a teacher in Los Altos and working conditions have gotten more difficult the past two years. Teachers goals are the same as administrators and parents, we want to do our best with educating our students. The amount of time and resources are limited during these lean times. The public needs to address these issues to insure continued success in our schools. Teachers and their working conditions are the focus of these postings and everyone needs to work together if they expect continued success. The blaming game will not improve success. Cooperation usually works pretty well when dealing with these kinds of issues. Let the administration know your problems and work with them and the community to make positive changes in education. We are all in this together, blaming anyone but ourselves is wasting time and energy.

Like this comment
Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Nov 9, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

This following comment was moved from a duplicate thread:

Teachers believe they are over worked and under paid. The tide is changing and the public that pays their salary is requiring they be more accountable. Many complain about the excessive number of hours they have to work. If you evaluate the number of hours they work per year I believe one will see they are in fact overpaid. They work less then 8 months a year. If they are really that unhappy whey don't they explore employment elsewhere? The reason is because they have a good thing and they know it. Job Security, Excellent Benefits and Every Holiday In Creation Off................."Just Think About It"
by \"Just Think About It\" Nov 9, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Like this comment
Posted by I see a Teacher...
a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I see teachers working late into the night preparing lesson plans, grading papers, doing administrative work. I see teachers spending less time with their own children, not having time to assist them with their homework and generally stressed both in the hectic classroom and at home. The do indeed spend a lot of time policng in the classroom, or they have children missing lessons while sitting in the principal's office, therefore lowering their classroom 'stats'. I see teachers working in conditions that are too hot or too cold, paying for their own classroom supplies and desperately trying to make a difference in children's lives because they love what they do. Without parental assistance, barely recuperating during the summer break and being thrown into new 'intellectually conceived' programs for success without proper training. Teachers may only work 8 months, but they only get paid for 8 months. So let's also ask them to be psychologists, nurses, and parents to their students. Oh, and why not mini superindentant's and administrators and statisticians too and fix their own school district's numbers by analyzing their own weak points and devising a plan to remedy it. What do school administrations do with their time anyway besides dreaming up more rules and work for the already overworked teachers? Try providing support and resources and supplies to these wonderful people who want to make a real difference in a child's life. And no, I am not a teacher... I saw the red tape when taking an introductory class in college and ran the other way even though I had wanted to teach.

Like this comment
Posted by I see a Teacher...
a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Regarding the comment that teachers only work 8 months of the year: Teachers work a minimum of 25% overtime hours per day, ie 2 hours per day. That does not include any school functions they are required to attend or any time spend on the phone after school hours with parents or students. If you see them getting paid for 12 months, it is because they have chosen to have their paltry salaries for those 8 months spread across the 12 months for budgeting purposes. So to give yourself an idea of what that means.. Reduce your salary by 30%.. work 2 more hours per day, then spread that salary across the entire year.. Oh you can have the summer off so you can reacquaint yourself with your own children and recover somewhat from the damage the stress of the last 8 months has caused. But remember, you will need at least 4 weeks to break down last years classroom and prepare next year's classroom.. and get started on your lesson plans so you might reduce the stress somewhat for the upcoming school year and maybe see your kids.. and your husband a few more minutes a day. Oh.. you would rather have your 9-5 where you chat with your coworkers and deal with rational adults all day and go home without a bagfull of work to do? Well, luckily your children have met people at school that want to make a difference in your child's life. You should be more appreciative.

Like this comment
Posted by Teacher Mom
a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Teachers get paid for working 10 months out of a year and the teachers I know work 10-12 hours a day (including weekends and we do work holidays). I made $45,000 a year last year. How am I overpaid?????? Can you afford to take 2 months off? Teachers don't get paid for not working in the summer, which is why many teach summer school and get other jobs over the summer. Please note that because of the budget there is no longer summer school. Many of us have chosen this profession because we want to help children. Without support, financially or otherwise, teachers WILL leave for other professions, which leaves inexperienced teachers in the classrooms. We can also no longer afford to use our own money to buy items such as pencils and tissue. I agree that we have job security and excellent benefits, but what does it matter if we can't feed our own children or pay our own bills. How do good benefits help me spend time with MY family when I am working 12-hour days? Most teachers are teaching the standards and have high expectations for their students, we are personally accountable for our students and their learning. Unfortunately the same standard and accountability is not there for parents. We are left everyday with hungry and tired kids, no discipline at home, divorce, abuse, etc. We have kids who are medicated, violent, and very, very, low in a general education classroom. This year I could really use a social worker to work along side of me, because the emotional needs are so great. For those of you who feel teachers are overpaid, please ask to shadow a teacher for a week. Work our hours, spend time with the kids, and use your own money to buy things for the classroom. You’ll say what all of my friends and family members say, which is “I don’t know how you do it!”

Like this comment
Posted by "Just Think About It"
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 10, 2010 at 12:46 pm

They are not there when I go to work. They are gone when I come home from work. The average salary for a teacher in Mountain View with 5 plus years is $80k+. They have excellent benefits. They work about eight months a year. They get every holiday you can imagine off. Some cities even give them loans to help them get into a house. The product there put out is less then satisfactory. I guess you are right. I sure feel sorry for teachers...........Just Think About It...........

Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 10, 2010 at 2:49 pm

My daughter is a very good first grade teacher and she worked hard to get her position. Anyone that says anything negative towards teachers is dead wrong and knows nothing about what a teacher really has to do and the extreme stress and long hours as well as dealing with discipline problems with students that are lacking proper supervision by their parents. Young people become teachers because they want to follow their bliss, to make a difference in young peoples live, to make a difference in the community at large. It is a noble profession and they deserve all the support, higher pay, better benefits, and more community support than they now receive.

Like this comment
Posted by Just Research It First
a resident of Jackson Park
on Nov 10, 2010 at 6:50 pm

"The average salary for a teacher in Mountain View with 5 plus years is $80k+"

Sorry, that's just not true nor possible if you consult the salary scale which can be found on the district's website. $80k+ is for 15 years or more with a Master's Degree and additional units required.

Just think about it, before you write it next time.

Like this comment
Posted by Ernie
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 10, 2010 at 7:50 pm

People upset about public employee salaries should be more concerned with the money police and fire services (in Abe Koga's pocket) in Mountain View are making and not teachers.

Like this comment
Posted by Nan R
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I am a special education Mom but luckily my special needs kid is now in high school, which has significantly more money to spend on special education programs. I want to comment specifically on how things have changed since my son was in first grade. First off, he has high functioning autism, so he was mainstreamed for an hour or two per day for reading and art. He saw Mrs. Patterson for reading, and he saw Mr.Franklin for art. His aide went with him to reading to keep him on track. When reading was over, he went back to his own classroom and Mrs. Patterson was able to handle the rest of the class in a normal setting. This arrangement worked very well for both teacher and student involved and did not add disruption to the classroom. Now, due to decreased budget, special education has been cut to the bone, and trying to get an aide for your child is a dream of the past. No matter how badly your child might need an aide, the district will always refuse and make it sound like there is a legitimate reason for it (he doesn't need it, blah blah blah, etc.) You have to battle for everything you get, and they can give you the bare minimum with no consequences to them. The result is mainstreaming kids who really should not be mainstreamed, or getting these kids into a classroom setting where they might be academically up to par, but they have social or behavioral problems that are basically left to be dealt with by the teacher. As I have seen over the years, it truly takes only one child to disrupt an entire classroom, and that is what is going on in alot of the classrooms today. Plus, teachers have to deal with IEP teams, parents, and other speciallist just to accomodate one child. Teachers who were hired to teach regular ed. are not equipped with the tools to deal with this, but more importantly this is not what they signed up for. I myself have done some classroom volunteering over the years, and please believe me when I say, I can spot the special needs child from a mile away, there is just no getting around it, it is very visible in a classroom setting. The solution to these problems lie with money, the more money there is for classrooms in general the more money there will be for special education and for classroom aides. Us special education parents know that our kids are expensive, and we try really hard to chip in and help wherever we can, but no matter what we do, we seem to be swimming against the tide. When my kid was young, I had my head down, just trying to accomodate his needs while trying to maintain anormal likfe with my other normal kid. This is they way ti is for us special needs parents, it just seems like we never get a break; many of us have been isolated by parents who have normal kids. It is a lonely life for us.

The newly formed special education PTA in Mountain View Whisman is trying to work with teachers to see if we can, in some way, lighten the load. We recently had an open house and invited educators to come. Every educator that attended was given a form so they could create a supplies wish list. In return for their coming to the event, we are trying to purchase at least one item, up to $25 for every teacher who reached out to us. Even though our budget is tiny, we are committed to spending it in ways that are appropriate to help the special needs community. Interestingly enough, not every teacher who attended the event was a special ed. kid, they were regular teachers, who needed supplies of all kinds for their classroom. We have purchased almost all of the things that were requested, and will start to distribute them next week. In addition to the supplies for teachers, we are creating after school social skills programs for our children, and we will be paying for this with money we hope to earn from grantwriting. As a special education Mom, I would like to do more to help our special eduation population because I believe that by doing so, we will be helping all kids. We are not allowed to raise money for classroom aides, (PTA charters are for after school enrighment), so we are trying to help out wherever we can. I hope that you can appreciate our efforts. If you need more information, please shoot an email to

Like this comment
Posted by "edukator"
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 12, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I am a teacher in Los Altos. I have a Masters Degree+ and have been teaching for close to 20 years. Thank you for the many parents (in Mt. View) who truly understand how difficult a job being an educator is. I frequently go into work on weekends to catch up with grading and getting my curriculum ready. "Involved parents" can be very helpful AND very draining. There are a few fortunate moms who don't need to work and hang around the school for most of the day. Yes, they are active in many committess but as some of you know, they may more work for the teachers.

"Leia, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm" wrote "You set the rules and are consistent with the consequences" What planet are you from Leia?? True, consistency and rules are needed but that does NOT always work. It is NOT that clear cut. You must be from an engineering/computer background. I am very successful in my behavior management in my classroom. Leia, you take 30 students who come to school with 30 different probems and try to get them at a level where they're ready to learn. It isn't easy. For you to say, be consistent with your rules is to not truly understand what being an educator is.

Although my salary is low and we don't have respect from many, I do love my job. I am making a positive difference in my students' lives and I am impacting the future.

Thank you to those of you who support Public education and your teachers!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 18 comments | 5,002 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 1,212 views

Couples: When Wrong Admit It; When Right; Shut Up
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 737 views