I was once asked what the most important job in the world was. The group I was with had answers such as the President, a doctor, and a trash collector. When it came my turn to answer, I thought that I had a common sense answer (never works out for anyone this way!). I said a teacher. The reaction around the group was astonishing. They acted as if there was no way, or that I had gotten the answer wrong! I felt I had to explain my answer to try to get them to see my perspective. Here is my best attempt to recreate my explanation and elaborate on it.
A teacher may not get any attention or credit in the public arena, but that is what makes them even more important. These individuals show up everyday to work to teach the children of our country and they are usually never known outside of the students and parents who come through their classrooms. They are hoping to share knowledge with their students that will be beneficial for a lifetime. Each one of you reading this post was taught by a teacher that most likely had a lasting impact on you. The impact of our teachers is far beyond that of Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, or the best doctor in the world. They teach us to enjoy learning, they teach us what to learn, and last but not least, they teach us that we can accomplish anything we want in life. Sounds like a very powerful and important profession to me!
This leads me to a question that many never think about. Why are teachers not paid like they have the most important jobs in the world? The easy answer is because as a country we can’t afford it. I believe it is not that we can’t afford it, but instead that we choose to spend the money elsewhere. The second reason is that teacher unions have created a system where tenure and job security for all teachers is more important then financially rewarding the good teachers. In essence, a good teacher can get paid significantly less than a really bad teacher depending on how long they have been teaching. Even worse, the school can’t get rid of the bad teacher if they wanted to!
This leads to a system where the best teachers are not given recognition, and the entire teacher work force is not compensated appropriately for the importance of the job they do. Instead of complaining, many people have come up with a solution that I agree with. Teachers should be treated as employees, and allowed to enter into healthy competition. Every year a school should be able to hire and fire teachers based on performance, and they would all be paid according to their abilities and effectiveness in the classroom. This would allow the school to make an effort to attract the top teaching talent and get rid of their bad teachers. The teachers would be making much more money which would also help to attract more students to join the profession. All of this leads to students getting taught by better teachers, who are getting rewarded for the work they do. Ultimately, the students getting the best quality education possible is the main concern of the school system right? Imagine if young kids said “When I grow up I want to be a teacher!” We will have truly created change then.
Have thoughts on teachers and their pay? Agree or disagree with this proposed new system? Please leave a comment below!