Teach­ing ac­tivism

The Weekly Vista - - News - DEVIN HOUS­TON Devin Hous­ton is the pres­i­dent/CEO of Hous­ton Enzymes. Send com­ments or ques­tions to devin.hous­ton@gmail.com. The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

“The best teach­ers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.”— Alexan­dra K. Tren­for

“Ed­u­ca­tion should not be the fill­ing of a pail, but the light­ing of a fire.” — Wil­liam But­ler Yeats

Teach­ers have gone on strike in sev­eral states this year, want­ing bet­ter pay and more funds for schools. There is no doubt con­cern­ing the im­por­tance of teach­ing as a pro­fes­sion. No greater un­der­tak­ing can be made than pre­par­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of doc­tors, ad­min­is­tra­tors, en­gi­neers and, yes, teach­ers.

Teach­ing is not for ev­ery­one. I ad­mit that teach­ing is not my strong suit. I was on a re­search track in aca­demics so my teach­ing was lim­ited to just a cou­ple of weeks each se­mes­ter. I found pre­par­ing lessons to teach much harder than do­ing lab work. How­ever, it was widely rec­og­nized that those who pulled in re­search fund­ing for the univer­sity were paid more than those fac­ulty on the teach­ing track.

I read a re­cent opin­ion stat­ing that teach­ers should not strike be­cause they signed a con­tract and were fully aware of the work load, pay and ben­e­fits when they signed on to a teach­ing po­si­tion. If they were not happy with the con­tract, they should just quit or find another po­si­tion.

This would be rea­son­able if the is­sue was only that of an in­di­vid­ual’s per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion. But such was not the case this year. Ac­tions of a lesser mag­ni­tude were per­formed with­out any change oc­cur­ring. Larger is­sues were at stake that could only be rec­ti­fied by a con­certed, large-scale ef­fort de­signed to in­form the pub­lic and force gov­ern­ing bod­ies to take no­tice. Teach­ers, for too long, were over­looked, un­der­paid, and un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated. It is in­ex­cus­able that teach­ers must pay for class­room sup­plies out of their own pock­ets. It is sad that teach­ers up­root their fam­i­lies and move to a district with higher salaries just to have a liv­able wage. It is be­yond the pale that school dis­tricts can’t sup­port teach­ers’ abil­ity to ed­u­cate by pro­vid­ing up-to­date ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als. These are is­sues that jus­tify the ac­tions taken by teach­ers.

But what about the im­pact on chil­dren, some ques­tion. Won’t this cre­ate a bad ex­am­ple of dis­obe­di­ence and dis­re­spect on the part of teach­ers? If one is not happy with their present cir­cum­stance, is walk­ing off the job an ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior to in­still in a young mind?

Ac­tu­ally, it should send a pos­i­tive mes­sage to chil­dren. For years I have com­plained about the ap­a­thy ex­hib­ited by many young peo­ple towards pol­i­tics and civic aware­ness. My fear was that tech­nol­ogy had sapped the in­ter­est and in­tel­lect of chil­dren, pro­duc­ing zom­bies glued to com­puter and phone screens; in­ter­ested only in gaming and so­cial­iza­tion by proxy. Now stu­dents have walked out of schools to demon­strate their con­cern for school safety and sen­si­ble gun con­trol. Teens have suc­cinctly stated their po­si­tions on a va­ri­ety of is­sues in pub­lic and tele­vised in­ter­views. I, for one, am en­cour­aged by the ma­tu­rity shown by many stu­dents. I can­not but feel that many come by these traits by watch­ing and mod­el­ing their teach­ers.

With civil dis­obe­di­ence of­ten come con­se­quences. Both teach­ers and stu­dents have faced sus­pen­sions and pub­lic re­buke for their ac­tions. Such is the price paid and another les­son learned in the hope of a bet­ter fu­ture for those com­ing up be­hind them.

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