The other day I heard a colleague tell me that she just wants to teach. She doesn't want to be a principal, administrator, politician. She just wants to teach. Not days later I heard another colleague say that she was "just a teacher". Both of these women are recognized for their excellence in teaching. They are the best in their field.
Why is it that teachers automatically demote their own profession? When I was in the classroom, and was in the presence of administrators, I would describe myself in the same way. Oh, I'm just a teacher.
Our society does not value the teaching profession the way it should. That old saying, Those who can, do- Those who can't, teach. This makes me cringe every time I hear it. Is this really what you expect for the people that are responsible for the education of our next generation?
Starting salaries in Alabama for teachers are just over $30,000. Hardly competitive compared to most other professions. Teachers are constantly under public scrutiny for the ills of public education. Teachers are blamed or praised for students' test scores, for attendance, discipline, students' performance. Most teachers have been told at some point that a students' performance was their responsibility. To an extent, of course, teachers can have an impact on all of these areas. But for such high expectations, we sure do not reward or compensate teachers equivalent to what we expect.
We hold teachers on an incredibly high pedestal but we give them very little to keep them up there. $300 for classrooms supplies (in AL)- anything else is up to you. Non-competitive salary with little room to grow and no incentives for excellent performance or taking on extra responsibilities. In fact, one of the only ways we reward teachers is through recognition. Teacher recognitions and awards are so important for the profession, but do they help to elevate the profession as a whole? Is the small chance of winning an award going to recruit quality people into the teaching profession?
Teacher shortage and teacher retention is a very real problem. To see how your state stacks up, check out this Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing. Look at each state ten years ago compared to today, and you can see that we are not in good shape. Of particular concern are the gaps in critical areas, like Math and Science at the secondary level. Or teachers who are certified to teach students of special needs or the gifted.
We take our teachers for granted and we do not as an institution treat teachers professionally. I think this is why teachers might reply that they are 'just a teacher' when asked what they do in mixed company.
This has to stop. Teachers and education professionals are just as valuable as every other profession and they should be treated that way. The next time someone asks you what you do, say proudly that you are a teacher, or whatever role you hold in the education system. They are all important. And teaching is the most important. Say it with pride, because you are so much more than just a teacher.
Education careers are tough. These entries are dedicated to making the lives of educators easier and empowering those who have chosen this path to reach their potential in work and life.