Although I have only been in the field of education for the past 10 years, it is apparent that the America needs to change its perception of teachers in order to ensure a more stable future for the country. I have to admit that I was pre-med during my undergrad years. In high school, I had a big interest in science and had pretty much decided I was going work towards becoming either a physician or engineer. It wasn’t until my third year of college, and after participating in many teaching volunteer opportunities, that I realized my passion for education. I wanted to make a difference in education and help influence the success of our futures. It was a decision that was looked down upon by many of my peers who often reminded me of the “those who can…DO and those who can’t teach” insult. Forty-some years ago, waves of women were becoming teachers because it was one of two career options (the other was nursing). Our educational system rested on the shoulders of the many intelligent and ambitious women of their generations. Many of these women worked as teachers through their retirements and/or are still teaching to this day. However, the generations that succeeded them have been more transient. Today women have many opportunities to earn more money through professions in medicine, law, engineering, and business. What does this leave us? Most of the women and men who join the teaching profession do it for the intrinsic value of helping children and solidifying our future. As teachers, we all know that we didn’t get into this profession because of the money. We do it for the children and our committment to molding them into well-rounded global citizens. Shouldn’t this mean that we are growingly having our educational system supported by enthusiastic and dedicated teachers? Unfortunately, high turn-overs and loss of these teachers to higher-paying professions outside of education is rampant. We are designing our educational system to be one that will burn out even the most persistent and energetic professional. Increased standardized testing and accountability of teachers towards school accredition, mounting pressure from No Child Left Behind, increased accommodations and attention to special education needs, higher scrutiny and demands from parents and students for communication, changing demands on instructional practices and effective teaching, classroom and behavior management requirements, limited funding for sufficient instructional materials and resources, increased need to plan and grade papers outside of the work day, stagnant pay, ….the list goes on and on. Today’s teachers are required to do what is impossible to do in a realistic time frame.
This is what every teacher faces daily. However, society still has difficulty in viewing teachers as true professionals. The third round of the Presidential debate reiterated this point. When asked on how education needs to be improved, John McCain went as far to profess that we need to increase our Troops to Teachers program so that they can be immediately placed in the classroom and not have to take all those certifications and courses. This outraged every teacher I know. Don’t get me wrong. I definitely consider teachers who have enriched prior experiences as a tremendous asset to the classrom. The assumption John McCain alluded to here is that teacher preparation programs, certifications, etc. are not necessary to create an effective teacher. You would not let anyone become a phsycian without med school. Nor would you let an engineer, lawyer, information technologist, dental hygienist, therapist, or any “practitioner” who directly deals with human services work without proper and extensive training. So why do we all assume that anyone can go into the classroom and be a teacher without extensive training?
America, its time to start investing in education rather than pointing the finger at the teachers. The teachers who are helping mold and raise your most valued possessions in this world are the ones you should rally behind. Why wouldn’t you want the most skilled and trained individuals responsible for nurturing the minds of our future? Our social, economic, and environmental problems will continue to be problems as long as we aren’t investing in the system that will develop the citizens of tomorrow. We work our hardest for to succeed in educating America’s youth, oftentimes without the support of a system where the odds and pressures work against this common goal.