I started a new thread on this because the other thread I found directly dealing with this didn’t have quite the same tone as this one. There seems to be a lot of negative feeling associated with stipends for teachers who mentor FIRST teams. Full disclosure: I will get $800 this year. It took five years to get a stipend. As someone else said in one of the other threads, this does make it easier to justify it to my wife. Particularly because it largely offsets what I shell out of my own money for stuff we need, and the donations we have made to help students who can’t afford the travel costs. With enough left over to (hopefully) buy a little gift for my wife and kids.
My first thought is that teams should be happy when they get a stipend. It means the school district at least thinks the team is important enough to make it official. My other thought is that having a paid position is good for teachers, because we assume more legal responsibility than most mentors. Because ours is a school team, I am not only responsible for my own actions, but for the safety of all the students. This means if something bad happens, I am responsible. My career is on the line. This is particularly true when there are a lot of other adults working with a lot of kids. Let me be clear, our mentors are awesome and I am sure none of them would ever do anything they thought could harm one of our kids. But the fact remains that it’s my career on the line. And it only takes one incident.
My feeling is that if schools pay for sports coaches, they should certainly pay for club mentors. If the teachers who lead the debate team, chess club, SADD or Honor Society get a stipends, then the robotics team teacher should as well. That’s provided the robotics team is an official team club, and abides by all school club rules.
Um, actually, I don’t think there’s much of a negative with teachers getting a stipend; after all, it’s at least as much work as, say, a track coach - and does anybody complain about coaches getting a stipend?
There are a few threads here on CD, search on the keyword “stipend” to see what I mean, and only the one you cite in your message has much of a negative feel about it - and from what I read, it’s because the team can manage to get to 5 (!) events in 2008, but one of their team is moaning that they need to use their budget to actually buy robot parts, and even pay for part of their travel. Horrors! My goodness, they even pay their mentors!
$800 is not enough of a stipend, it should be double to triple that, but I do need to be mindful of the relative cost of living throughout the country. Here in Northern NJ, $800 won’t get you 1 room studio for a month in the poor part of the county.
For the record: I do not begrudge you your stipend. I would even speak publicly that it is too little. I’m a mentor, I drop several hundred dollars a year on the team, and I’d be highly insulted if they offered to pay me (unless it was 6 figures ). I mentor FRC because of the personal satisfaction I get in return.
I personally see nothing wrong with the school reimbursing you. Just so long as the teachers don’t do it to get paid more. Just as long as the teacher is doing it to help kids I see nothing wrong with being repaid.
I think its great that you get a stipend. I wish we could afford to pay our mentors as well. Teachers don’t get paid enough as a general rule.
We are a 4-H team so all the “leaders” are legally responsible for the club members.
Someday (in a perfect world) we would get paid for all the work we do but until then…we are happy to volunteer. We do not begrudge you a stipend…maybe a touch jealous. (tee hee) But hey I’m jealous of lots of things other teams have…just makes us strive to do better
In BC all teacher salaries are negotiated through a province-wide collective bargaining process.* Extracurricular activities are anything above and beyond the normal hours of work and demands of the provincially approved curriculum and are strictly voluntary. The board cannot insist that a teacher provide extracurricular activities, nor can they compensate the teacher for doing so.
What I do appreciate, however, perhaps more than a stipend, is when the school board makes it easy for us to find the “release time” (funding for substitute teachers) to take part in FRC events. It would be nice to have a bit more of that. It would also be nice to see us able to run a small robotics class off the school timetable and with a slightly smaller number of students than the average class size.
So those would be on my “wish list” before a stipend, but that is because we have negotiated the contract that we have. If we had a different contract and if athletic coaches were getting a stipend, then darn straight I’d be demanding one for being an FRC coach. That is only fair!
*The Supreme Court of Canada has found that the provincial government is somewhat unclear on what, exactly, “Negotiating” means…
One of the parents put out a stipend to see if we could lure in a teacher to the robotics team. Sadly, none of them would touch us. He ended up taking it himself. We had a physics teacher once, but he left a couple years ago for personal reasons.
You never realize how much the teacher does for the team until they leave. Interfacing with the school is a lot harder when you don’t have them. If you have to put out a stipend to keep them around its worth it.
Teacher stipends are a great idea for the team coaches on a robotics team.
As part of their annual sponsorship of Team 228, our town’s Board of Education earmarks $4k of the $10k alloted to us every year explicitly for a coach/teacher stipend. It’s usually ended up being $3k for the main coach per year, with two additional $500 stipends.
While religious guilt might make some of us push for martyrdom and suffer through no compensation (I haven’t had a stipend in my two years), it would help.
I calculated that I spent about 150 hours in fundraising, parts acquisition, etc. While I had some help, it’s amazing how many folks don’t step up. What is more challenging is my need for a second income. I teach SAT classes on the side to make up for the teacher salary shortcomings.
I’m not complaining, I love what I do. In fact, I left the higher-paying IT world to do it and love my job every day. But raising my kids costs money, and I just hope that the need for cash doesn’t pull me away from mentoring the team. A stipend would assist me in my focus and dedication, but the lack of one hasn’t stopped me yet.
I’m guessing I’m not alone in this one. I think this kind of stipend is where you local companies could truly see a return on investment and be sold on supporting it.
One of the things that has helped us in getting an extra duty contract for our teachers is that I have always emphasized to the district and the school board that we are a TEAM and not a club. I put emphasis on how many hours the robotics COACHES put in and compared that to all of the sports coaches in our district. I don’t want to put down the sports in any way, simply to point out the commitment of our robotics coaches.
And for those who complain when we compare robotics to a sport, I would invite you to come to examine more closely exactly how much is done by our teams. We get some kids, who might normally spend all of their time sitting behind a computer or video game, out and actively moving around to build things and participate in a physical game. That in my mind is worthy of a contract similar to an athletic coach!
If they call poker a sport, than robotics is most definitely a sport
*sport(noun) 1. An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively. 2. An active pastime; recreation. *
Physical Extertion (fixing robots, running around scouting, etc) - Check
Skill (Driver skill, designing skill, etc) - Check
Governed by a set of rules or customs - Check
Often undertaken competitively - Check
An active pastime; recreation - Definitely!
I certainly didn’t mean to imply that most of the posters were giving a negative implication. I know that most of the posts were positive about teacher stipends. I found 47 threads yesterday with at least one post about stipends, and most of the comments were positive. But there was an undertone in several of them about paid mentors being inferior. It was nagging at me a lot. Probably should have just let it go, but I didn’t. Oh well.
While I am in whole hearted agreement that if coaches get paid, the robotics advisor (I do look at myself as a coach even if my title is club advisor) should be paid, my biggest reason for advocating the stipend is that I won’t be doing this forever, at least at this level of commitment. I don’t have any plans to step down yet, but some day I will. (And if my kids end up doing robotics, our neighborhood school has Team 963, so I might well become a volunteer for them, who knows.) The stipend makes it part of the school budget, so there will be a push to fill my position when I leave. My biggest fear with regard the future of the program is that it will die when I leave because no teacher will step up to do it.
While $800 is kind of low as a stipend, it is not that much less than I make as a cross-country coach. Though I spend a lot more money on robotics than I do on CC.
The topic of teacher stipends has been controversial in the NJ area for a few years and I know of at least one mentor that pressed a school district to pay a stipend and had issues with management because of it.
The short of it is that if you are going to change the culture then the teachers who manage robotics teams should recieve at least the same compensation as athletics coaches.
In my opinion the successes of my team have had a far greater influence on the future careers of my students than any of the athletics programs our school offers. True, we do occasionally put out a professional athlete and that’s great. But the return for the money invested is no comparison.
After years of negotiation and great success of the team our district created a stipended coach position for me and a lesser paid position for one assistant coach. I am currently pushing for others. They pay me the same as a head soccer coach. I can live with that (for now).
And of course the hours spent far exceeds the profits made from a stipend. I defy any coach of any of the sports to compare time and effort spent with my schedule for Raider Robotix.
Of course there are those teachers out there who will do nothing without a dollers per hour compensation and I really doubt that those are the people who go far with FIRST teams. You “do FIRST” because it makes you feel good and you get satisfaction from seeing the kids grow and succeed. If you are in it for a buck you will be very disappointed.
So what is next? The Cybersonics’s home facility is a dream we aspire to. We need a building. Every athletic, musical and drama activity has a field or stage to do thier stuff- paid for by the district. Our team is looking for a building with a permanent FIRST field. A shop would also be nice (we have none). We are rallying the parents, mentors and resources to that end. Our teachers are developing new courses that will further develop robotics as a core to our curriculum and thus warrant more facility for it. Time to write some grants and find some funds. Hey- it cant be any harder than building a robot…
Wayne, I completely relate to the desire for a home. We work in the shop at one of the three district high schools, which is not a bad work space but it gets cramped and messy sharing. The current tech teacher is GREAT about sharing the space with us, but it would be so much nicer if we had our own space. We could leave ongiong work out on a work table rather than picking it up, packing it up and undoing all of that the next night.
It is something we’ll pursue the next time we have bond issue money. I would personally like a big open room attached to our athletic complex where we could set up a field and work on the robot. This would also keep the kids out of the school building proper. The district would like this aspect. (Not because our kids are getting in trouble but because it would mean the doors to the school wouldn’t have to be open to late hours all through build cycle.)
As for stipend pay, I think the amount for robotics will increase eventually. At the very least I think they will eventually move to a stipend for each school, which would mean either more help or more money. I pray for the more help. It would be great. We have two teachers now for 70 kids, and it gets a bit difficult at times to keep track of everyone.
I’m going to probably sound a bit rash here, but if you’ve been coaching a team for a few years, and are beginning to generate results by inspiring students to actively pursue a field that they may not have without your team, then I believe it’s time to approach your board in support of the program. If they’re not offering you parts, tools, a place to work, and/or an adviser stipend, then they’re not supporting a program that clearly is positively impacting students in the district.
Even if it’s only peanuts (because compared to the hours we all put in, it will be), your board of education needs to invest in educational programs that go beyond core curriculum content standards. Like Wayne C, I get a stipend on-par with the soccer coach, and I work all-year round (as I’m sure most fo you do). The board has continued to increase support of our program, but largely because we consistently keep them informed of our progress and results. They like to see when students get inspired and get something out of a program offered within their schools.
I can’t stress enough the need to have your board of education support your program beyond just allowing you to have one. Presentations and testimonies can help sway a board in your favor, but it must be noted that you need their support in order to function, be it through a dedicated place to work, parts/tools, general funding, and/or adviser stipends.
Our State even with only one regional under its belt, is already working towards “pushing” for stipends for teacher, mentors, and/or volunteers for working with 1 of the 6 possible robotics programs in the State of Hawaii.
If our current bill originating from the Senate passes in its current measure, this will become a reality for those involved.
This is in no way something that should be looked upon negatively. We would only be following in the footsteps of every major sport from the school level, to college level, to the professional stage.
If society can afford to put up gyms for basketball/volleyball, football and baseball fields, etc., then they can certainly put up an establishment and support system for an “academic” sport much like “physical” sports.
I don’t think there is any reason to give a stipend to any teacher that can be suckered into being the school’s representative on the team. Teachers are already way overpaid for the little work they do. It isn’t like they are pro atheletes that really do work and since the students they are working with will never be able to contribute to society the way a football coach’s students can contribute to the betterment of society.
I will heartily second Rick’s comment. My $800 will not cover all of what I spent, but it does keep the costs down. If my school district paid the entry fee for the team I would give up my stipend personally. (Though as I said in an earlier post, the stipend will be crucial in finding my eventual replacement.) This would probably allow us to go to more than one regional and have a more competitive team. More importantly it would give more kids a chance to do meaningful work at competition.
I would never argue that what I do is more important than what every football coach does. I know of one relatively famous inner city football coach here in Ohio who has a staggeringly high percentage of his students go on to college, most of them not to play football. I don’t actually think my job is as hard as being a high school coach. Our head coach certainly puts in as many hours as I do. Like it or not (and I most certainly don’t) the football program at a great many high schools is placed on a giant pedestal. No one is going to call for me to be fired because we went 3-4 at the championships. For that matter I am not going to get fired for a bad record in cross-country either. But if our football coach went 4-6 there would be many people calling for his head. So it is a higher pressure job. But I certainly think that what we do in FIRST is at the VERY least as important as football.
That said, I can’t complain. While our school district doesn’t come up with much money, we do have a place to work. The other advisor and I do not have to take personal days to travel to competitions. I have an administration at my high school that is very supportive of the program. Our principals value it and help make it happen. Even going to bat to work around new overnight trip rules that would have forced me to either take days off without pay or not go to the Championships. Heck our athletic director has spent the only night in a week he did not have to be at school in the evening covering a build meeting for me. And we have a robotics booster committee that is just plain awesome. They work year round to support the FRC and FLL teams and raise thousands of dollars a year. So I know that there are a lot of teams that struggle more than we do.