Visiting my sister Madeline last week, we took in the eclipse and did some errands before she returned to work as a teacher on Wednesday. She’d been into her classroom several times over the summer, labeling bookshelves, covering bulletin boards, and planning lessons. She has several days of preparatory meetings with colleagues before students arrive next week. Celebrating her 30th year in the classroom, she’s a pro; yet there are always new techniques to learn, methods to try, students that challenge like none before.
I’ve been thinking about teachers these days and while I miss teaching, I don’t envy the responsibilities many have to assume that go way beyond teaching a particular subject.
Watch former National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García’s speech a couple years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zMbspRhqJc
Additionally, there’s the challenge of teachable moments. Any teacher would be remiss to ignore them. But how to handle the barrage of current events? A devastating hurricane? Climate Change? A nuclear threat from a foreign nation? Civil unrest amid racial hatred? How do teachers emphasize kindness and acceptance when the President behaves so badly toward others? A daunting task, indeed.
And yet, teacher salaries in many parts of the country hover near hourly wage levels as public school budgets are slashed by state legislators.
Take Oklahoma, for example. As Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy writes:
“Teachers haven’t had a pay hike in a decade, and 10-year veteran teachers who are single now make little enough that their own children qualify for reduced-price school lunches.” Teachers are leaving the state, finding high paid jobs in Texas and elsewhere.
Teachers should be trained like doctors, and receive equivalent compensation. They hold the future in their hands.