Jan 232015 0 Responses

What If We Valued Teachers More?

I’m the dad who prefers to walk my children into school. I know the days are quickly passing in which they allow me to do so, so for now, I park the car, grab their hands, and escort them to class.

It only takes a few minutes, but they are informative minutes. I learn a lot about my kids in those final seconds before they start their days. I see how they interact with the principal, teachers, and other students. I can learn what is causing them stress or what excites them. I see other students and am reminded of the needs which many children have—the need for safety, nutrition, love, etc.

But more than anything, it’s seeing the teachers which I need the most. I see them preparing to do one of the most important activities which will be done in our community for that day. Few things approach the importance of teaching the next generation. So much of the hope of our city, country, and world fall on those little shoulders who might one day cure cancer, create alternative forms of energy, or lead radical change. Those teaching our children are helping to determine our future. (See: What Every Parent Should Know as Kids Go Back to School)

I see them on a daily basis and I can see the stress in their eyes:

  • they experience the same stress of life we all face—illness, struggling marriages, aging parents, raising kids, etc.
  • educational standards are increasing even while the home lives of students is decaying
  • outside influences believe more should be taught but less time is given for instruction
  • success or failure is often determined by the results of a test, not the outcome of an individual child
  • the use of technology is expected without a fair understanding of the time needed to understand how to use new tools
  • public scrutiny is at an all-time high even when community involvement in local education is at an all-time low

Teachers are doing one of the most important jobs in our community without the adequate support and compensation expected in other professions.

But what if it was different?

What if our society valued teachers to such an extent that we expected the very brightest among us to be teachers? (See: Five Principles for My Daughter’s Teacher)

What if teachers saw themselves, not in arrogance but in professional pride, as the elite of the professions?

What if teaching was seen as both a privilege and a responsibility?

How would these changes influence the perception teachers have of themselves and others have of them?

Imagine the change:

Teachers would see themselves in a better light. When you see yourself as a top-in-your-field performer, it influences every area of your life. Success often breeds success.

Teachers would see each other in a better light. Imagine working every day alongside a group of people who are world-class in their ability and are willfully sacrificing for the sake of their country and the future. If teachers saw one another for who they are, it would greatly increase teamwork, work-place morale, and comradery.

Parents would see teachers in a better light. While many respect the work of teachers, many others do not understand the difficulty of their jobs. Many parents demean the work of teachers and fail to partner with them in the education of children. If parents understood the value of a teacher, they would be much more likely to work with them than against them. (See: Understand the Power of Your Presence)

But What About the Money?

One the biggest issues of teachers and society alike is how can we compensate those in the field of education at a level which reveals the importance of their job. Of course we can’t. Money is tight and will continue to get tighter. A first-grade teacher will never have a salary comparable to a professional athlete.

Yet the transformation of education does not require a change in teacher’s pay.

What if society so valued the teaching profession that we expected the best among us to choose that field even while knowing it will never be a good avenue toward riches or fame? What if we believed the intrinsic value of teaching outweighed monetary compensation?

Isn’t this what we do with the military? Don’t we honor and recognize military service for the valuable contribution it is even though we know most military personnel are under paid? Don’t we expect some of the best among us to forego their personal dreams and aspirations in order to do what is best for society?

If we do this with others, shouldn’t we do this with educators? (See: Three Loves to Change Your Life)

This viewpoint doesn’t excuse society’s responsibilities to better compensate teachers. I’m not saying we should tell educators to get over the fact that their pay is low.

But I do wonder what would happen if we so valued education that we expected the best among us to enter the field and they entered education knowing the value of what they do outweighed anything they could ever be paid.

I am not an expert on the educational system. I do not know what a teacher faces on a daily basis. However, I can almost guarantee that I know the difference between a teacher who has a good day and one that has a bad day:

For those that see it as a privilege to get the opportunity to interact and influence young minds, their day will feel valuable.

For those that focus on the burden and expectation placed upon them by administration, politicians, and parents, their day will feel pointless.

Teachers deserve respect. They deserve it from their communities, colleagues, and themselves. If we valued them to the level of the service they provide, many things in society would change.

What are some meaningful ways we can show how much we value teachers?

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