Teacher pay has been at the forefront of the conversation lately. Teacher unions and lawmakers have been sparring back and forth all over the country about just how much compensation teachers deserve. Most people have seen this play out on the news and at their statehouses. What a lot of people do not know is that there is also an internal battle among teachers, too. You see not every teacher feels as strongly about getting more compensation.
It would be inaccurate to characterize these teachers’ views as “not wanting” better compensation as almost everyone would take a raise. In contrast, there is a large contingent of teachers that disagree with the focus that has been placed on pay by the nationwide movement.
You can spot these teachers easy in the meetings. They typically say things like:
“It’s not about the money, it’s about the kids.”
“I didn’t get into teaching for the money.”
“We will never be paid enough.”
“The work is its own reward.”
None of these above statements are exactly false…Of course, it’s about the kids and nobody teaches to get rich. At the same time these statements, while well-meaning, undersell the value of teaching, and undercut completely valid efforts to increase pay.
Teachers do not take a vow of poverty, and they have needs and wants like any other professional. Everyone recognizes that there is a finite amount of pay in a government job, but it should at least reflect the years of education and experience that it takes to be proficient. But in many places, it doesn’t pay more than entry-level jobs that don’t require college. While I, too, find teaching inherently rewarding, hugs and reunions with former students don’t put food on the table.
So, teachers do deserve more money, and the teachers that insist on pushing the image of the poor self-righteous teacher are hurting the efforts. It’s easy to underpay people when certain people in that job vocally “don’t care” about the money. If you are a teacher and you legitimately don’t care about the money, then good for you. However, know when and where to voice your feelings on such as your rhetoric will be used to hold other teachers back from achieving their long-term financial goals… and you have no right.
There is plenty of room to disagree on methods. Not everyone agrees to strike or walk-out. Even going to statehouse visits and participating in marches can be contentious. However, we can’t afford teachers who openly accept being underpaid because their “sacrifice” is used to deny a higher wage to the rest of us.