Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Teacher Pay - Make Room, Baby!

Pencils Down tossed out this opinion the other day ...
It seems that many school districts are having a hard time attracting qualified math teachers. Gee, I wonder why that is? Could it be that those potential educators are having a hard time turning down the six figure salaries that Google or AT&T are offering them? I seriously doubt there's nearly that kind of disparity between professional historians and social studies teachers.
Well, I usually hate to rain on anyone's parade, but here I'll make an exception. I'm one of those math teachers (with degree in mechanical engineering) that he seems to be talking about. I probably could get a six-figure salary from one of those companies or from some automaker, but the type of mind that can handle a classroom and teach effectively is dramatically different from one that can sit in a cubicle all day churning out code.

I knew what I was getting into. Right out of college my offers from industry were twice those from education. I knew all that then and I accepted it. I know all that now and I still accept it. I reject the argument outright that STEM teachers should be paid more than other teachers. Sure, if you are tossing money at people, I'll take some but not because I am somehow magically better because of my courseload. If I do some work outside of my job description, okay, if you insist.

Who's to say that my math class is any more valuable to a student than the English class down the hall? (in general, of course. Specific teachers may suck. YMMV) Or the music class where the kid learns to play a couple of instruments? Or the art class where he comes out of his shell? Or the history class that ignites his love of the humanities? Or the French or Spanish or Latin class that broadens his worldview a bit? Are my tests and assignments in math harder to grade or is the work just distributed differently? (The latter, if you were wondering)

From where did this unholy focus on STEM and it's value gain so much traction? Whingeing teachers. STEM majors who don't particularly like teaching and would rather do something more befitting their obvious moral and intellectual superiority in the grand scheme of things. I have just one thing to say to these teachers.

Change jobs. I'm calling your bluff.

Go ahead. Get that $100,000 job with the tech company. If you can't because your internal view of your abilities is different from everyone else's, then shut up about being forced to accept a pretty decent job that pays well, has little true oversight and quick 'tenure', and allows for great vacations. (working vacations, true, but still ...) It's never going to land you a house in the Hamptons, but if you had 1% of the brains you claim to have, you would have known that before you signed up, went through the whole certification process, and did the application thing. Are you trying to tell me that someone can go through all that, remain clueless about the job's trials and rewards, and yet deserve some pity because he somehow is more worthy. NARF!

Learn to teach and enjoy it or get the hell out.

Many of my students have said they want to be teachers, some of them math teachers. They would be excellent replacements for the malcontents. Make room, baby!

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