Appreciating Teachers as More Than Scapegoats

Today is Teacher Appreciation Day. My son is a teacher so I’m proudly directing my kudos to him. He’s also a poet, bookmaker and student. Isn’t his hand-bound chapbook impressive?

Teacher Appreciation Day seems a bit oxymoronic considering the lashing this profession has taken lately. (Ironically, here in Wisconsin today is also a recall primary brought on largely because of this disconnect). The fact is our whole education system is under fire, and while it certainly is due for an overhaul, teachers shouldn’t be the only scapegoats.

Maybe there’s more to teaching than we lay people know? Maybe policy makers, politicians and the general public should take greater responsibility for a failing system instead of generalizing our educators as lazy, overpaid whiners.

Take a look at what my son is doing, along with his many compatriots. As a graduate student pursuing his second master’s degree, he’ll put in four years of post graduate education by time he’s finished (thankfully he’s doing this on a scholarship and teaching stipend—imagine those who can’t).

If my son pursues a doctorate, his humanities degree will require another 6-7 years. He’ll be in his 30s before he’s qualified to apply for full-time college teaching positions—jobs that really aren’t that plentiful. After all those years of living on $15,000 stipends, the $45,000 to 135,000 he might eventually earn will finally bring him to the economic level his friends in other careers have been for almost a decade.

I don’t hear my son complaining. He knew this going in. But I bet he didn’t expect to become a prime source of blame for our country’s economic woes.

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