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Professional Sacrifice?

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Nancy Flanagan thinks career-changers have much to contribute to the teaching profession, but she objects to the view held by some that teaching is a kind of "missionary work," or an altruistic stint akin to the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders. Despite its idealism, Flanagan says, that attitude ultimately doesn't do the profession any good:

When we portray teaching as a starter job, an interesting thing to do before graduate school or after retirement, a particular form of occupational charity, we marginalize both its intellectual challenge and its social impact. Teaching should never be seen as a step-down career, nor should choosing to teach doom someone to second-income status. Shouldn’t teachers-for-life be able to own homes, support families and take vacations?

One would certainly hope so. ...

5 Comments

Yes, teachers should be able to take fun vacations and own their own homes. Vacations are nice breaks to bring something back to the classroom. And purchasing a home is dream come true for anyone. Why shouldn't be for a teacher!

You are so on the money!!! I am a brand new 50 year old teacher and I am absolutely fascinated with the pay structure for the very people we hold accountable for the future of our country. I can't believe how much you are required to know as a teacher and the reponsibility coupled with long hours and 2 additional jobs to pay the mortgage on your tiny house in a bad neighborhood. Teachers are going to have to stop replying to the money thing with "I don't do it for the money" Naturally if you are fine with it nothing is going to change. I wonder if the money thing has anything to do with 100 year reform education has "not seen".

Nancy
Denver CO

Kudos to people who teach for a lifetime and to those who teach for shorter times. I've recruited, prepared, hired and worked with people with both timelines. I use different words to repeat your ideas.

Both lifers and multidoers add to students' background. Adding matters, not the length of preparation, professional memberships, or tenure in a classroom or administrative position.

More than any other attribute, I look for old fashioned curious, open minded, independent (informed) critical thinkers, people who have succeeded at something before they enter a classroom.

They know how to compete resourcefully, and to exercise on-task personal discipline in spite of distractions without close supervision. Usually, they show their students also how to succeed in school, regardless of students' backgrounds.

I'm guessing we agree.


I'm guessing we agree, too.

Teaching is important and vital work, and when we bring people with life experiences (like running a business or successful parenting) into the classroom, kids benefit. No doubt.

Teaching is a professional career, however. I don't ever want it to be seen as temporary. I like Bob's words--bravo for lifetime teachers, and bravo for those who take the challenge before/after some other occupational choice. The vast majority of people go into teaching to make a difference, an impulse we need to nurture.

It's when we associate teaching with sacrifice that I get worried. It gives society license to seriously underpay and undervalue the professional difficulty and importance of the work. There are many occupations that critical to social well-being: nursing, social work, clergy. Many of these are underpaid and not valued, but hold up the social network.

Thanks to all for your comments.

After 5 years of teaching and advising up to three extra-curriculars activities in one season, I now understand why teachers leave in their first five years. I also understand why teachers need to stop allowing themselves to be used by society as a scapegoat for why children are uneducated and lack discipline. It is because it is only when people stand up to bullies that they are freed from a bully's abuse.

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  • Kristy: After 5 years of teaching and advising up to three read more
  • Nancy Flanagan: I'm guessing we agree, too. Teaching is important and vital read more
  • Bob: Kudos to people who teach for a lifetime and to read more
  • Nancy Swan-Cendejas: You are so on the money!!! I am a brand read more
  • Wendi: Yes, teachers should be able to take fun vacations and read more

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