“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.