I was privileged to spend some quality time yesterday with Rebecca, a middle school teacher in southern Arizona. She had taken the afternoon off from teaching to go to the state Capitol to protest proposed funding cuts to public education. In the past, she admitted to being careful about advocating, but she felt she just couldn’t stay silent any longer. She commented that if she didn’t speak up now, there might not any job to protect.
This teacher has been teaching in the same school district for 16 years, and brings home only $900 every two weeks, despite normally working about 10 hours per day. Her husband is also a teacher and between the two of them, they barely make it. They have two children, an 11 year-old girl and an 8 year-old boy. I asked her what her daughter wants to be when she grows up. She said she has talked about being a veterinarian, but time will tell. But, she did tell her daughter that if she chooses to be a teacher, Rebecca wouldn’t pay for her college. This surprised me so I asked her why. Rebecca’s response was should make all of us sad. She said she didn’t want her daughter to have to deal with the lack of respect, low pay and insufficient resources that come with being a teacher.
This teacher confirmed my suspicions that what is driving teachers out is not the low pay, but the lack of respect for the profession and the continual changes that don’t result in positive outcomes. As much as Rebecca loves teaching and loves her students, she doesn’t want her daughter to work in a profession that is undervalued, underpaid, and overwhelmed. How sad.
But, Rebecca hasn’t given up. She wants to fight for her kids, her school, and our future. Problem is, she is just one person and just one vote.
The job of a teacher is not to advocate for resources for their students. The job of teachers is to teach their students. They need the rest of us to step up and speak out. Many credit Albert Einstein with saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If the greater “we” doesn’t get out and vote, we can’t expect anything other than what we’ve got in our elected representatives. Our vote is likely the only power any of us has left and if we abdicate that, we’ve given up. Get motivated, get registered, get informed and VOTE! It is the only way we’ll make a real change for the better!!