My favorite game as a kid consisted of desks, a chalkboard and pencils. Forget the Barbie, baby dolls or any other girlie toy. I often volunteered to be the teacher, and was occasionally denied by my older siblings, but more so by my youngest, who enjoyed being in charge. Still, I wished one day I’d be the teacher, then I could write on the chalkboard and grade papers. Maybe someday.
The reason we have so much school material and desks is my mother. She’s a sixth grade teacher and scheduled to retire in a few months. When asked if she would teach all over again, she said, “Yes, but I would transfer to a New England state.”
Even with that childhood dream, I decided not to be a teacher … probably because watching my mom on normal weekdays was draining. Spoiled kids, 33 of them in a class, and she rarely, if ever, stopped working. She worked during prime-time television, dinner and in between. That was on the days she came home at a reasonable time.
A few years back, I chose to become a teacher’s aide at my mom’s school. I enjoyed teaching kids new things and reading out loud to them, especially a child who only talked when he was reading out loud. But I found it difficult maintaining order in the three- and four-child group sessions, especially since some of them refused to speak English. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to maintain 10 times as many students. I found my income didn’t quite match my job description. I quit because I could never get the kids to listen to me. What a talent my mom, and many other teachers, has to walk into a classroom and get order.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both.”
If we want to fight bigotry, the best place is when people are young and teachable. Teach kids to not hate other kids. We can’t afford that in our society. With the rise of bullying and the need to look further into this detrimental problem, we need the best teachers out there destroying ignorance on impressionable minds.
Elementary school teachers are among the lowest wage earners with a four-year degree. Secondary school teachers in Utah are dead-last in the nation for income.
We have to ask what it is about the role of teaching and what it plays in our society that makes many of our lawmakers not want to pay or consider teachers worthy of higher salaries. We live in a deeply religious state and yet there’s still something that devalues teachers in our society, which seems counter-intuitive to me.
A society is only going to do as well as they treat their teachers. It hurts the future of all kids.
Despite the negative sides to teaching, many women and some men brave the rough terrain and do their best with what they’re given; they are real heroes and heroines.