My 6 year old daughter, clad in a long black skirt, striped peplum top and cork heeled wedges gave off an aura of quiet confidence and high aspirations. As she mingled within a group of family and friends, she was asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” a teacher or a dentist she replied. Those are 2 common professions she references as occupations she wants to be….and then he spoke up, quite adamantly “Don’t be a teacher, be better”, my heart sank. That very sentiment explains the state of education and our public school system here in America.
When I was growing up, teaching was a much revered profession. To tell someone you were a teacher meant that you had the opportunity of higher learning that not many were afforded and it meant that you were chartered with molding the minds of the next generation. Not today though; I would never forget during my years of graduate school while I was teaching at a public middle school, a young girl spoke regularly of dropping out when she turned 16- she couldn’t wait and I couldn’t fathom it. I would constantly persuade her otherwise until one day in her broken English, she said “my mother makes more money cleaning houses than you do.” And that was the unfortunate truth…I couldn’t argue with her on that point.
Today teachers in America are getting paid the bare minimum, often working multiple jobs to make ends meet. This is an issue that America needs to focus on and re-evaluate in a very pragmatic manner if it is to move forward successfully. Imparting knowledge and disseminating information, also known as Teaching is one of the fundamental pillars of any society and the mere unfortunate fact that adults would dissuade children from this profession merely because they want them to have a better standard of living speaks volumes about the changes that need to be meted out to those who are chartered with over filled classrooms of our children, interacting with them more than we are on a daily basis and ultimately helping to shape their futures and the future of this nation.
For now, I will have to imagine a world where the emphasis on education is heightened and the prestige of a profession is regained. I will continue to be optimistic of a time when our country has its priorities set straight and I will encourage my children to be whatever they want to be, especially if they want to teach and change this world, one person at a time.