Friday, January 31, 2014

Year 4: Week 20 - Fighting the Good Fight

Teachers have to fight all of the time.

Educators in America have to advocate for their clients (the students) and their value in society. Some of the things we wage war over are seems more personal like salaries and benefits.  However, fighting for a higher salary effects people looking into being a teacher and how other teachers feel valued, so even those issues is more than just a personal one.

I often wonder how much other people have to fight in their jobs. Many of my friends who aren’t teachers negotiate their own salary and have to argue for materials and what they think is best for their client. I don’t find many people though who have to argue for their job's value in society.

Some of my friends who work in finance who got heat for the economy collapsing have to defend their jobs but at the same time, the level of financial compensation they get convinces most people that there is value in their work. If you are being paid a high a salary, that is a justification in itself because it means you are helping other people make money . . . theoretically.

What would teaching be like if we didn’t have to fight for enough money to buy basic materials for our students? How different would this profession be if teachers had high salaries that made people in other fields like medicine and business feel devalued by society? How much better would American education be if teachers spent less time fighting for our kids and more time teaching them?

The lower salaries mean that most teachers do their jobs for the love of the job. That’s the single greatest motivator for teachers, which means that you have less teachers in schools who are there for the wrong reasons. However lower salaries also mean that you loose amazing teachers who can’t afford to be a teacher so they go into other fields instead.

Every time someone says that teachers are overpaid, shouldn’t get the benefits that they do or are the nexus of the problems in American education it grates at our souls. One of the reasons that teachers are so optimistic is because if they weren’t, the negativity and lack of respect and value that people express towards teachers would crush them.  Many people in society only see value defined by how much someone gets paid and those people need to see that expression being directed towards teachers in order for these people to taking teaching seriously.

Yes, there are plenty of bad teachers out there. There are deplorable business people in every major city. There are amazing ethical professional athletes and then there are ones who cheat. Judging all teachers by the worst among us has a negative spiritual effect on the teaching population.  

The fight for pencils and basic school supplies is not a fight teachers should have to wage. We shouldn’t have justify why small class sizes are better and we shouldn’t have to spend out time convincing people why would should be paid a wage that is both fair and communicates a place of value to ourselves and people outside our profession. We shouldn’t have to fight to make sure kids have enough food and clean clothes every day.

We should spend our time in difficult conversations with parents over what is best for their chidlren. We should debate the value in federal versus locally mandated curriculum and healthy tension between them. We should work in a school focused on our jobs, to teach, education and facilitate the development of individual students as human beings and not as products.

American education succeeds on the energy, optimism and hope of teachers coming every day and fighting the good fight.  If we're not careful, if our teachers are not buoyed up, those things that teachers bring, that light may run out and what we would be left with . . . well. . . would be nothing.

We have changes to make and battles to be won and teachers in America aren't giving up even though these fights take away from the energy our kids, your children need from us.  We do it because it's right, it's what needs to be done.

We spend money out of our own pockets so kids don't go hungry, we can't ignore this need, so don't ignore our battles and think twice before you decide to take the other side.

1 comment:

  1. As someone who is going through the certification process right now in Missouri, I agree that a lot of teacher standards are surprisingly low (you only need a 158 out of 200 to pass the Praxis II exam in MO), but the naysayers also don't realize how much of teaching isn't JUST content, and like you said, there are bad apples in every job, no matter how you slice it.

    I suppose one of the things that really annoys me about the "conversation" that is happening in education right now is always how to evaluate teachers, or how the current ones aren't "qualified" enough. The naysayers are always saying how we need the "best and brightest" to flock to education, and my first reaction is always, "Why WOULD they?" Like you've already said, the pay is ridiculous for the amount of work and hours that teachers put into the profession, teachers aren't afforded prestige like doctors and lawyers are, and while current teachers HAVE to love what they do to stick with it, I don't blame a lot of them for leaving to start a career that allows them to better support their own families. Teaching is so much more than just a job, but at the same time, it IS a job; one that not just anyone can do, and it's a career thats salary doesn't reflect the amount of work that goes into it.