Sunday, February 04, 2007

Job Risks

The NEA Today magazine has an article about non-teacher school employees ("Education Support Professionals") and the dangers they face on their jobs.

Now, I surely appreciate the people who help keep a school running, and I certainly don't want any of them facing undue hardships or injuries. But the list of hazards they should be protected against...well, take a look.

"Bus drivers repeatedly open and close manually operated doors, and depress the clutch and brake pedals."

Many teachers drive to school. All teachers must also move their feet up and down stairs all day long. Does this mean that we can claim job injury from these repetitive motions?

I would think that the risk of bus drivers would be in the arena of hearing loss and stress, dealing with loud and potentially rude or disruptive children, yelling and throwing things. Let's protect them from that instead of brake pedals.

"Food service workers repeatedly life heavy equipment, stand for long shifts, and reach above shoulder level and below knee level or across counters."

Teachers stand all day long. Teachers are constantly bending and reaching: across tables to talk to students, putting charts on the wall while perched on student desks, picking up piles of paperwork and transporting them to the staff room, home, and back. Et cetera.

I've worked in food service, and the lifting and standing were the easy parts of the job. These workers get little respect and have to deal with nasty food and chemicals all day, not to mention children with little to no manners. And the dish-washing that leaves your whole body and clothing soaking, your hands pruned beyond recognition, even with gloves? Or how about the searing steam and heat from the Hobart and hot pans of food? Talk about hazards.

"Technical service and clerical workers perform repetitive keystroke motions on computers."

Several words: Gradebooks. Report cards. Bubbles. Attendance lists. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. Keeping in mind, of course, that teachers have to do it all manually, since too many of us (at least in this godforsaken city) are not blessed with computers on our desks like the rest of the professionals. So we have to go to our own homes and do the repetitive keystrokes.

"Skilled trades workers and custodians are subject to muscle stress from tools, prolonged kneeling, and bending."

That's what custodians have to worry about? How about cleaning up disgusting spills and picking up heavy trash cans?

Teachers are very much subject to muscle stress--clutching chalk for hours at a time; tripping over bookbags and other hazards in the obstacle course known as a classroom; balancing writing with never completely taking their eyes off the students; carrying loads of paperwork in cutesy tote bags, resulting in sore shoulders every morning and afternoon; ...this list goes on.

Health workers are exposed to diseases and contact with blood and other body fluids.

Those diseases and body fluids come through the classroom first, and many of them never even make it into the nurse's office. The teacher gets to play nurse for the easy stuff.

And how about removing the ridiculous restrictions on those nurses, so they can actually treat headaches and stomachaches and sore joints, without worrying about lawsuits from parents who worry about all the wrong things?

Security staff face psychological stress from dealing with violent student and parent behavior.

Um. Are you serious? I'm sure this is the case sometimes, but FAR too many 'security' officers simply take up space and do nothing to increase the security of the building or students. And again, all those violent and virulent students and parents go straight to the TEACHERS all day long. And then we get to think about how to deal with them on our 'off' time, often while we sleep. I know the security officers wouldn't have that dilemma.

Really. Where are the teacher job protections? How are we supposed to be the smiling, gentle faces who educate future generations if we can't even get protection from the myriad dangers that the other 'professionals' get? Why do they get to be support professionals and we're the simpletons who couldn't cut it in the real world?

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