Rodney Dangerfield wasn’t an Educator!

Finally, after everyone else in the Blogosphere, I got around to reading Sarah Fine’s explanation as to why she is leaving the teaching profession. If you haven’t read it yet, please do so now. I’ll wait…………

Ms Fine cites many of the same reasons others leave the profession; an ever-increasing workload without a corresponding increase in compensation, micro-management by administrators, surly and disengaged students, and a general public perception that “Teaching is an admirable and, well, necessary profession, they say, but it’s not for the ambitious.”

I don’t fault Ms Fine’s decision to leave the profession in the least. Once upon a time I felt very similarly and nearly took the same route out. I do question, though, her conclusion that people don’t respect teachers as much as other professionals such as doctors and lawyers.

Certainly there are individuals, very vocal ones at that, who will proclaim, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach!” and who measure an occupation’s value by the average salary one receives in that profession. It’s been my experience, though, that the majority of people hold teachers (at least as individuals) in very high regard.

I assume the majority of readers of this blog are educators, so I’ll ask this question: how many of you have ever been at a bar and, when the subject of what you do for a living comes up, have received a response along the lines of,  “Wow! That’s great! I could never do that!” and then been told a story about a teacher who made a difference in that person’s life? Maybe not a lot of time, but I suspect that it has happened once or twice.

Now, if there are any lawyers out there; how many times has someone in a bar said to you, “Wow! That’s great! I love lawyers!” then proceeded to tell you a story of a lawyer who helped them become the person they are today?

That’s what I thought.

This is not to say that lawyers are not important or helpful or worthy of our respect and admiration; they are. The error we tend to make, though, is that we believe salary is a function of respect, and while, to a certain extent this is true, it’s not the only measure of the value society places on a profession.

As an aside, comparing the legal and education professions, though tempting and very popular, is misleading, at least when it comes to salary. Starting salaries for lawyers vary a great deal, depending upon the organization one goes to work for. Attorneys for non-profits or district attorneys offices don’t make nearly as much as those who work for big, well-established law firms, and those who go into private practice will vary even more in their incomes from year to year. Being a lawyer doesn’t automatically guarantee a large income, big office, and luxury automobile, anymore than becoming a teacher relegates one to a life of ramen noodles, cold coffee, and frequent colds courtesy of little people with snotty noses!

Add to the equation the number of hours worked over the course of an entire calendar year, the late hours required, the all-or-nothing nature of litigation, and I feel the salaries tend to level out somewhat.

Should teachers earn more? Yeah, probably. But small school districts (or even large ones) don’t have the resources to pay teachers like big law firms pay attorneys. [Largely because the people who determine how much school districts receive each year, themselves overwhelmingly attorneys, don’t provide school districts that level of funding, but that’s a topic for another post!]

What do you think?

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