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Follow-Up: Time for a Teaching Profession

I must take issue with one of the comments on this Roundtable and clarify some important reasons for multiple career pathways for teachers.

On Noah Patel's entry, RHE responded:

The problem with career paths for teachers is that the most important job in the system is and always will be the classroom teacher. It is unique in that the entry level position has the same responsibility in year 1 and in year 30. This is not true for most other fields. That is why a salary schedule for a teacher will always be relatively flat.

The classroom being at the center of our work is not a problem. Nor is our desire as teacher leaders to remain anchored in the classroom. In fact, it is the increasing quality of our work with students that should be the primary qualification for anything else we might choose to do, including being a building or system administrator, or preparing future educators. As the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards asserts, highly accomplished teachers are constantly growing and improving their craft because they are constantly reflecting on their experiences, and because they conscientiously network with other growing educators.

But the salary schedule for teachers does not have to "remain relatively flat." Actually, the exact opposite should already be true. Brad Jupp, one of the chief negotiators for Denver Classroom Teachers Association, when they worked to set up Denver's groundbreaking ProComp system, pointed out recently that "those demanding to hold on to it [single-salary schedule] are clinging to a reform that predates World War II" (The American Public School Teacher, p. 162).

If I could represent clients or perform surgery as well as I teach students, it would be considered wrong if I weren't well compensated. As a society, we claim that our children are our most important resource, yet those who distinguish ourselves as their teachers are made to feel ashamed because we want to earn a middle-class salary and retire in dignity. That's a problem.

I wholeheartedly agree with my colleague Lori Nazareno: we teachers must take responsibility for our profession. One way is by continuing to push for multiple career paths and hybrid roles. As my co-author Shannon C'de Baca notes in Teaching 2030:

"We need a fluid profession that allows different types of teachers, all well prepared, in scaffolding a career lattice to focus collectively on the needs of students" (p. 111).

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