By Jose Vilson | Published May 7, 2013 by good.is
How do we actually appreciate teachers?
For one, America can start by giving teachers more voice in policy and practice. Our voices in the decision-making process have been nullified or patronized, an attitude reserved for a woman-dominated profession. Teachers shouldn’t just have a seat at the tables currently reserved for wealthy businessmen, technology experts, policy wonks, fresh out-of-the-Ivy-League newbies, and politicians. They should get the opportunity to create the table, creating the consortia, and developing the protocols for how we discuss our profession. Respect for expertise goes a long way towards making teachers feel appreciated.
We can also pay teachers well. We can pay beginning teachers a liveable wage—$45,000—and get third-year teacher salaries up to $65,000 and up, maxing out at $140,000. Of course, we can have other discussions on remuneration, but, as National Board Certified teacher Renee Moore would say, “We shouldn’t be afraid to get paid.”
More to the point, we need to assure that teachers have a wage that keeps them satisfied with their jobs and unafraid to try best practices, akin to doctors and lawyers as they move up in their professions. Having a union assures that teachers get equitable salaries regardless of sex, race, or religion, and we can use a healthy mix of old and new solutions to ensure equitable payment for educators.
Lastly, we can improve working conditions for all schools. Instead of investing monies towards bigger central office staff and SmartBoards, we can work on improving our school buildings. We need to make them look friendlier and less like prisons. We can make school lunches healthier, and provide students with recess and the arts more often. We can reduce the constant need for standardized diagnostic testing that requires special programs and seating arrangements that take away from, not promote, classroom learning. Also, as education advocate Patrick J. Sullivan would say, our strategy for improving schools can’t be “open-close-open-close.” Sustaining these ecosystems takes much more thoughtfulness than we currently invest.