What’s with all the new teachers?
There’s an old adage, taken from an ancient Chinese proverb, that goes, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Now, aside from the fact that I don’t think that’s what the original Chinese intended given what an unfair statement it is about people who devote their lives to educating, I do, however, think it says something about the way things are going now – and our attitudes towards the teaching profession.
People in various professions and industries are being laid off in droves. Many of them are “resorting” to being teachers. I understand that people need jobs, but I don’t think that is a particularly inspired reason to become a teacher.
My opinion of teaching being a fallback profession is about the same as my opinion regarding that “old adage.” Who is it that is spreading the rumor that teaching is easy and can be done by anybody? Here’s a newsflash: Teaching is hard. Really hard. Really, really hard. It also happens to be one of the most under-rated, underpaid and under-appreciated professions in existence.
In fact, its difficulty, lack of remuneration and thanklessness is matched only by its vital importance. Well educated students today mean a well educated workforce tomorrow. Each human being gets one childhood, one chance to begin one’s life on the right foot. Each child has a right to expect and receive the best education which we as a society can provide them. And to think that you can just walk in and become a teacher because you got laid off from your “real” job is an insult to teachers and a slap in the face to children who deserve better.
Maybe I take it so personally because people treat my profession the same way. People revere and revile writers in equal amounts. If you tell someone you’re a writer, there’s a 50/50 chance that he is going to be awed or roll his eyes. Everyone thinks they can do it. And, to avoid sounding conceited, who am I to tell them that they can’t? After all, I’m not on the “New York Times Best Sellers” list or anything. I’m just a struggling writer with a freelance column and a blog, trying to make a career for herself.
But I have always wanted to be a writer. I’ve veered off a bit here and there trying to find my way, but when all is said and done, the only thing I’ve ever dreamed of doing is writing. It’s what I’m studying in school. I have entire bookshelves full of titles like “Eats, Shoots & Leaves,” “The Elements of Style,” “The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing” and “The Associated Press Stylebook,” just to name a few. It’s not a fallback career, something I’m puttering at in my spare time or the novel I’m fuddling with in my retirement. All of my time, spare or otherwise, is spent writing, editing, rewriting or reading someone else’s writing.
And that is how everyone should approach their career choices. With passion. With heart. With everything they have. And to treat someone else’s passion like it’s your fallback job is wrong. It’s also foolish. Not only is teaching difficult, but some people seem to mistakenly think of it as recession proof. But it takes money to fund schools and pay teachers and lack of money affects education just like it does everything else. Broward County in Florida is laying off nearly 400 teachers this year.
So, lets all toss out that “old adage” about doing and teaching and embrace a different one: