Sunday, March 4, 2001
home page local news opinion business island life sports
AP National & International News
Traffic Hotspots
School Calendar
E-The People
Email Lawmakers
Classified Ads
Restaurant Guide
Business Directory

Posted on: Sunday, March 4, 2001

Hawai'i's teachers deserve more pay, respect

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Staff Writer

Teachers at Kahaluu Elementary wore T-shirts to school two days ago, but there wasn’t much casual about the Casual Friday attire.

The blue-and-white Hawaii State Teachers Association shirts were worn deliberately, pointedly, angrily.

Teachers in the Windward school district wore their union shirts on Fridays and will continue to do so until a strike vote scheduled for March 14 is taken.

It’s a dramatic contrast, seeing a caring, nurturing person wearing the colors of protest and contention while helping a child. It’s quite a statement.

And it struck me how dangerous the situation is becoming.

There’s something inherently noble about the teaching profession. It is widely held that those who work with children are selfless, giving, devoted. And they are.

Those types are drawn to the profession. And the profession draws out that kind of caring in people.

It’s dangerous, however, when self-sacrifice becomes expected.

In every profession, there are the few who are proud to give more than expected — the guy who always stays late to clean up, the woman who bakes pastries for the lunchroom, the worker who comes in on Sundays to make sure Monday runs smoothly.

When that kind of devotion is expected, required, mandatory, all joy is drained out of the work. The line between happy-to-help and hard-to-swallow is drawn with attitude, appreciation and personal cost.

Right now, it’s costing Hawaii public school teachers too much to love their jobs. They are working without a contract, making far less money than they’re worth, and being asked to do much more than their job descriptions. That’s the basic formula for burn-out in any profession.

Teachers are expected to do much more than teach under the current school structure. They have to act as social workers, counselors, health care providers, agents of the court, even fund-raisers and benefactors.

HSTA President Karen Ginoza tells the story of a student of hers who kept coming to school with ukus.

After repeated attempts to contact the child’s parents, Ginoza finally had to wash and cut the girl’s hair herself.

And that’s just ukus. Teachers are on the frontline of abuse cases, child custody battles, neglect, poverty, violence.

There are stories of teachers having to find shelter for homeless children, standing in the way of a noncustodial parent trying to abduct a child, or buying a jacket for a kid who has nothing to wear to school on rainy days.

There is great joy in such small and wondrous acts of heroism, but not if it’s expected.

Not if it’s demanded by the system that will not in turn take care of the caregivers.

The teachers deserve to be paid like the professionals they are. They need to know they are appreciated. They’re doing the work of heroes, and Gov. Ben Cayetano is treating them like hired help he can overwork and underpay with impunity.

Perhaps the teachers’ anger at Cayetano’s disregard doesn’t show in their interaction with students, but it’s as plain as the letters on their shirts.

Any time noble deeds are tainted with simmering resentment, there’s the danger of losing the best gifts these professionals have to share.

Lee Cataluna’s column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Her e-mail address is

[back to top]

Home | Local News | Opinion | Business | Island Life | Sports
Weather | Traffic Hotspots | Obituaries | School Calendar | Email Lawmakers
How to Subscribe | How to Advertise | Site Map | Terms of Service | Corrections

© COPYRIGHT 2001 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.