Lack of Knowledge About Teachers Leads to Misinformation

New Hampshire teachers rank sixth in survey

By Ken Wells

Nearly everyone in Andover with personal knowledge of our Andover Elementary/Middle School gushes about what a great place it has been for their children and how fabulous the teachers have been for their kids. Yet public schools and teachers in our town, and all across our state are under fire today. Why?

New Hampshire has the sixth highest ranking in the United States for its public schools, as reported in a WalletHub study published in Forbes magazine.

I recently spoke in Andover with a fellow who said he was passing through from Bradford. (I’ll just call him “Brad.”) He claimed that “teachers only work part-time, nine months of the year, quitting time at 3 PM, they get all those teacher in-service days off to go skiing, so they should only get paid for part-time work, but they’re making, like $65,000 dollars a year. Teachers get paid too much!”

Wow! As a public school graduate and retired teacher who worked in residential high schools for 37 years, I know this could hardly be farther from the truth! I know only too well how many 14-hour days we teachers worked; sometimes one long day followed another, and another. 

We’d start our day in the classroom, followed by coaching in the afternoon, then participating in evening duties or meetings, finally sitting down to grade that day’s student work and prepare the next day’s lessons at around 10 PM. The cycle started again the next day with an 8 AM class. Some years, I was lucky to have only 25 advanced students; other years there were more than 60.

On top of the daily face-to-face work with students comes a relentless need for detailed student reports and evaluations to be written, along with thoughtful college recommendations for juniors and seniors. 

Teachers must attend professional development seminars, or mandatory training sessions required by various safety, health, and insurance authorities. Teachers learn things like CPR, how to address bullying, how to identify and respond to sexual harassment, how to respond to an active shooter in the building, etc.

If you doubt any part of what I’m saying, find a teacher and ask them about all the things they do, and then really listen to their answer.

A web search shows teachers’ average starting salary in New Hampshire is just under $39,000 per year; that’s barely over half the $75,000 median income in Andover. (The state-wide median income is even higher, at $79,000.) In spite of the high academic results our schools and teachers achieve, New Hampshire teacher salaries are lower than teachers earn in half the other states of the US. Who thinks this is fair?

In New Hampshire, we are in an ever-deepening labor shortage for qualified teachers. This is only partly due to the strains the pandemic has imposed on teachers, health care workers, and others who play essential face-to-face roles. If a teacher unexpectedly misses a day, colleagues pick up extra work without compensation. 

Many teachers have decided to retire early or seek other work. And why not? A teacher with four, six, or more years of expensive post-secondary education and strong professional “people-skills” is almost certainly qualified to do much more lucrative work than being a classroom teacher, and do it with less risk to their health and well-being. 

I understand that for some, leaving the classroom is a melancholy but timely decision. For those that stay on, I applaud them for their unselfish dedication to making our future world a better place!

It seems that people like Brad don’t actually know what teachers really do, yet they keep spreading this harmful rubbish. It is strange and suspicious to me that I have heard Brad’s same story repeated almost verbatim in political circles over the past several years. 

These people insist on telling the fable that our public schools are failing, that they are no good. They describe that teachers are only at work when “lecturing” in front of a class of mostly disengaged kids. 

If that was the limit of Brad’s educational experience, I’m sorry for him. In my experience, the most effective teachers rarely lecture, but involve their students in carefully designed interactive lessons, changing them up so the activities will be engaging and uniquely different from day to day.

But why would anyone want to tell such untruthful stories about our public schools and dedicated teachers? Perhaps the answer lies in the State House, with bills like HB 1255 (, the “teacher loyalty act” that would force teachers to parrot nationalistic “patriotic” indoctrination. More answers might be found in HB 20 ( and HB 607 (, which would defund our public schools and ultimately turn a portion of our tax dollars over to out-of-state, for-profit “scholarship organizations” serving religious-, private- and home-schoolers to satisfy new but ineffective requirements for “oversight.” 

Yet more answers can be found in HB 1399 (, which describes how the buildings, computers, and vehicles of cooperative school districts such as our own Merrimack Valley can be legally liquidated and then doled out to towns that decide to abandon the cooperative school district.

Those of us who understand the worth of New Hampshire’s constitutionally guaranteed public education “available to all,” who value the dedication of our teachers and public schools, and who object to having our shared investment in our children’s future bled away from our community, should be very alarmed by this cynical political effort to discredit and defund our schools.