Stop Saying that Teachers are Inspirational

This morning on the radio the DJ reported a story about how a Nobel prize winner said he “owed it all to his bassoon teacher“, and then the DJ went on and on about how inspiring teachers are and how the station was going to have a series on inspirational teachers.

Now, I’m very glad that the laureate in question had such a wonderful bassoon teacher. Good for both of them. But I have to say — especially as a former teacher — I am tired of hearing about how “inspirational” teachers are. 

If teachers are so “inspiring”, how come we pay them 60% of what we pay their education-level peers?

If teachers are so “inspiring”, how come so many of them want to escape the profession (and 46% of new teachers leave within 5 years)?

If teachers are so “inspiring”, how come everyone and their mother thinks they know more about educating children than teachers do?

If teachers are so “inspiring”, how come we degrade the teaching profession by saying things like “those who can do; those who can’t teach” or “you’ve got it easy — you get the summer off”?

Let’s stop kidding ourselves.

If we truly believed that teachers were inspiring, we’d pay them livable (or even generous!) wages instead of empty applause and flattery for a select few who rise to the top.

If we truly believed that teachers were inspiring, we’d treat them like the co-parents to our children that they are instead of like stupid babysitters who aren’t working hard enough to make sure our kid gets an A.

If we truly believed that teachers were inspiring, we’d let teachers figure out how best to educate our children instead of tying their hands and forcing them to chase an ever-moving and impossibly high bar.

If we truly believed that teachers were inspiring, we’d stop using their love of educating children as an excuse to take advantage of them.

So you can call teachers lots of things. 

Call them “professional”. Call them “educated”. Call them “mentors”. Call them “graceful”. Call them “patient”. Call them “loving”. Call them “thoughtful”. Call them “passionate”. Call them “creative”. Call them “dedicated”. Or, call them “ineffective” or “impatient” or “frustrating.” They’re people — so call them whatever they are.

But don’t call them “inspirational”. That’s just an excuse not to call them “equal”.

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2 thoughts on “Stop Saying that Teachers are Inspirational

  1. Correct.  Calling them “inspirational” is a way of telling them that “teaching is its own reward,” and that they shouldn’t WANT those other things you’ve talked about (good working conditions, salaries commensurate with their educational level, etc.).  Because if they want a career that’s rewarding financially AND emotionally, well, that’s just greedy!  And teachers shouldn’t be greedy!  They should be inspirational!

    It’s all obnoxious rhetoric.  Especially in a country that keeps falling farther and farther behind internationally, since we don’t actually care about the overall quality of our own education.  It’s sad.

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    1. davidlick  Exactly. I have yet to find any sustainable profession where the work is really its own reward! (I was going to say subsistence farming… but if the WORK is its own reward, then do you REALLY need to eat the benefits?)
      For some reason, we’re okay with doctors making a high wage AND enjoying caring for patients… though, I’ve seen a lot of this same rhetoric applied to nurses — “Why are you striking for better wages and benefits and more nurses per patient? Don’t you CARE about your patients??” Same with pastors. “You only work one day a week! You’ve sure got it easy!”
      What is wrong with us that we see employees with big hearts and assume “pushover who will work for free”?? So frustrating and sad.

      Like

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