What Value Do We Attribute to Educators??
Is it just lip service or do we back that up with salaries commensurate with that level of trust and importance. This article argues, that we don’t:
I will let that article argue the point but then wanted to follow with my own experience. I LOVE kids. All I thought I ever wanted to do was be an elementary school teacher. It would be fun and the kids would love me because I loved being there and wanted them to love being there too. I didn’t last but 5 years! Part of that is that I still believe I wasn’t well prepared. Having my BA in Sociology and then my teaching credential was irrelevant. I wasn’t taught classroom discipline. I spent all my time putting out fires (no not literally but constant outbursts and disruptive behavior) and had little time left over for real teaching. BUT, that could have been fixed. That wasn’t the real reason I bailed. I bailed because with a young family in tow I couldn’t afford suitable housing.
I was a bit of a rarity in those days, a new male elementary teacher (early mid 20’s) in a 6th grade classroom. We had what we called then “room mothers”. A parent who would come in and help with seasonal parties and celebrations. One year my, “room mother,” was a dizzy ball of energy wrapped up in a flashy blond bombshell costume. She was wonderful! AND she was a Realtor. She ended up taking myself and my wife house hunting. It was a daunting job. Nothing we could afford on a new teacher’s salary and basically no savings existed in a neighborhood that we would choose to live in. I did find the process of looking fun however and “Dawnette” remarked that I seem to enjoy the process of the hunt more than most of her clients and that I should consider getting my license and selling homes during the summer season when I was off anyway. That sounded like fun to me.
I crammed like crazy and got the license just in time to start the summer. I certainly didn’t set the world on fire but the owner of the company Bruce Mulhearn in Bellflower California (still in business I believe) saw something in me that he thought was promising. He did something that I hadn’t seen before. He gave me a guaranteed income for some period of time as he knew I had a family with three young sons at home and couldn’t risk the jump from salary to commission in one big leap. It was a huge risk but I was enjoying what I did so much that I decided to accept his offer and gave my notice to the school district.
Now over 40 years later I appreciate that vote of confidence and risk that Bruce took with me. In a short period of time I was able to buy our first family home (a fixer for sure) in a neighborhood that we liked and a lifelong career was born.
My point, however, through this whole narrative has nothing to do with my real estate career. It has to do with why I left teaching. I think I would have eventually have become a great teacher. I had too much love to give to kids for that not to have won out. The reason I left was that I was not valued enough by my community and country to be paid enough for what I did to allow my family to grow and prosper.
Little has changed. Salaries and benefits have gone up of course but they still are not equal to the role that the teacher plays in our society. Now we have a new education leader that believes in vouchers and privatization of our education system. Sooooo once again, the haves get more and those stuck in lowly lesser income brackets get less. The well-off go to private schools and have the best opportunities while the middle and lower classes either make huge sacrifices or put up with the mediocrity that a local community tax rate can provide. The more we put into privatization and “vouchers” (man I hate that word, it just means take from the poor and give to the rich) the more we widen that gulf. Vouchers mean less and less in the pot of government provided education for our youth. The further we get from guaranteed excellent education for ALL and dip lower into this have and have not economy the less we will shine as a country.
Yes, I am a Realtor. I have had a good career but I think I would have been a better teacher than a Realtor if my community valued that gift enough to allow me to make a good living doing so.