A few weeks ago, I was volunteering in a 6th grade classroom and as we were wrapping up the period, one of the boys asked me what I want to be when I “grow up.” I looked at him and said that I wasn’t sure, but that I was keeping my options open. “Do you want to be a teacher?” was his response, and following this he offered, “You shouldn’t do it. Don’t they make like nothing?”
For the majority of my life, I have witnessed teachers around me making next to nothing for changing lives. For changing lives. It’s a topic that is sickening for me to talk about and yet, what will come of the issue if we don’t discuss it? On this day I was told by a 6th grader that I shouldn’t be a teacher because the money isn’t good enough. What does this say about the respect he feels toward his own teachers? He’s not only already determined that he most certainly won’t teach; he’s urging people around him to do the same thing.
And he’s certainly not alone. This survey found that one of every two students felt their teachers didn’t “measure up” in various categories. What’s more is that only 39% of students reported feeling respect toward their teachers and only 54% of students feel that their teachers respect them. Who’s to blame? Teachers, or the people who determine that teachers don’t deserve to make more of a decent living for their work? Bad teachers exist, to be sure, but students aren’t naive; they know that teachers make little money. Does this in fact have a bearing on how they feel about the people teaching them?
I am friends with almost every teacher at the school where my mother teaches and where I attended kindergarten to 5th grade. As I progress further and further through college, I have yet to meet one of them who has encouraged me to teach. A favorite line of most teachers who know me: “Hayden you would be such an awesome teacher, but you just shouldn’t go into teaching.” What?
Credit: Falling Creek Camp
I know I’m not the only student who has heard that sentence before. This weekend I sat on an admissions panel and discussed the Education minor program. I talked to high school seniors about its premise and how it’s perfect for students who have a good deal of interest in Education but don’t know whether or not they’ll teach. As I talked, I couldn’t help but feel like I’m lying to myself. What if I do know that I want to teach? What then? Should I be ashamed of that? I am still on a path to law school, but I refuse to ultimately rule out teaching as a possibility. Few things make me happier than walking into one of the elementary classrooms in which I volunteer and hearing, “Mr. Hayden is here!” What if I could enjoy that as a career, every day of my life?
Have any of you also been pressured to not consider teaching for financial reasons? Have you ever talked to someone and walked away feeling that they were thinking, “You want to be a what?” by the end of the conversation? I don’t yet know what my future holds, but teaching is certainly not out of the question.