Teachers deserve more respect, money

Job description: seeking people willing to accept meager pay, high workloads and constant criticism.

In today’s political and social environment, such conditions are all too common for teachers and those entering the education field. Yet they receive virtually no attention.

Instead of reform, politicians like Sen.Rand Paul  and Rep. Michelle Bachmann voice opinions to rid the country of education funding and even the Department of Education.

While other countries are redoubling their investment in teachers and education, the United States continues to restrict and scale back its investment in those sectors.

Talk about progress.

“Folks who have no idea what it means to be an educator are making the changes that impact educators,” said Professor of Education Studies David Hildreth. “There is an erroneous belief among these folks that anybody can be a teacher.”

Such “folks” are especially prevalent in North Carolina, where the General Assembly recently passed a bill eliminating teacher tenure, automatic pay increases for teachers who earn a master’s degree and the N.C. Teaching Fellows Program.

“It is embedded in our culture,” said Dana Professor of Psychology Richard Zweigenhaft. “For the past few decades, we have seen a decreased commitment to public education in America.”

Rather than encouraging talented teachers to enter the field, legislators created stronger roadblocks and limits.

“These legislative acts undermine the respect, however limited it already is, for professional educators,” said Assistant Professor and Chair of Education Studies Julie Burke.

Burke explained that the effects of the recent laws are already apparent.

“There were a lot more openings in local schools after the 10th day (of school) than I’ve seen in quite a while,” Burke said. “We are already seeing teachers leaving the state for Virginia and South Carolina, where salaries and benefits are more sufficient.”

Such an exodus of teachers will likely increase in coming years unless the state provides greater compensation.

Our teachers inherit the burden as the caretakers of our nation’s future and ultimately the future of human progress. Teachers are the foundation of our society, the stimulators of intellectual curiosity and experimentation, the progenitors of a future that will only be marked by increased complexities.

And what do we do?

We continue to pay them the lowest salaries of any profession. We continue to repeatedly restrict their classroom budgets and capabilities. And we continue to discourage bright talent from entering the noblest of all fields.

“Most teachers have a passion above and beyond tangible things like pay and those who really care will stay in education,” said Hildreth. “But it is harder and harder to do the things you love when you feel this constant sense of oppression.”

“It is definitely frustrating when teachers cannot get the supplies they need for their class,” Executive Director of Talent Development for Guilford County Schools Amy Holcombe told The Guilfordian.

Such oppression and frustration is simply unacceptable. Our society rests on the shoulders of our teachers, yet we show no sign of appreciation or gratitude. Instead, we inundate them with continued abuse and restrictions.

The future of our society depends on the teachers that build it. If nothing else, we must stop the continual demoralization of teachers and the use of education policies as a means of expressing political or ideological differences.

Education changes lives, ends poverty and inspires prosperity. If we do not give teachers the respect they deserve, the pay they are worth and the resources they need, we are digging the hole for our own future.