The comedy industry thrives on presenting current information in a light-hearted way. While these comedians and comedy shows are not news programs, they do provide great insight into current politics and various opinions. There is a reason that Saturday Night Live’s spoof of the first presidential debate had more viewers than the actual debate. Comedy and laughter allows people to interact with politics and popular culture in a way that listening to the news or reading an article does. NPR discussed the influence of comedy on politics and while it didn’t say that comedy does or doesn’t have a significant impact on them, they do present issues to people who may not otherwise engage in them. Additionally, they portray the people involved in these issues as human, making them more relatable and approachable.
With this in mind, I invite you to watch this Key and Peele bit called “TeachingCenter,” which is based on SportsCenter only for teaching, not athletics. This video is light-hearted and has been seen by over 7.5 million people, due to their large viewer base. Because Key and Peele have chosen to present this information about the current circumstances of teachers in a comedic light, more people are made aware of the issues that they face. Additionally, it shows popular opinion and beliefs about teachers in our society. Lastly, it juxtaposes this job, the job to educate and prepare youth to be citizens and contributors, to athletes, who are talented individuals, but don’t have the influence of a teacher.
The first thing this video tells us about our society at this time is that it values athletes over teachers. I don’t think that this comes as a surprise to anyone, but why not? I think athletes are great, and have nothing against them. However, I do believe that teachers are more influential than athletes. Teachers are responsible for nurturing students’ academic, social, emotional and various other abilities. Teachers are the ones that raise the next generation to be competent individuals both in their personal and public lives. Most people have interacted with a teacher and been influenced by them. This could be for the better or the worse. Why do we put athletes on a pedestal higher than teachers? Why are they valued and treated better than teachers?
This leads me to the next point that this skit brings up: teacher pay. Perhaps the most striking line from this video is when Mike Yoast is picked as the first round draft teacher pick. The commentators describe Yoast as being an “unbelievable story” as his father was “a pro football player living paycheck to paycheck” and now he will be able to “buy his mom a house.” The irony of showing how a first round draft pick (in any sport) will become an automatic millionaire, while a teacher is living paycheck to paycheck is eye-catching. If we lived in a society where athletes lived paycheck to paycheck, there would be protests and outrages. However, if a teacher lives this way, it is perfectly ok and why would things be any different?
The video beings with the all-star teacher Ruby Rufh transferring from Ohio to New York to take her talents elsewhere. There is also an $80 million dollar contract (over six years) with an additional $40 million based on test scores. There are a few things I want to point out about this example. First, the teacher is receiving $13.3 million a year without any additional money from testing. Based on information from the North Carolina Public Schools website, it would take a teacher 14 years to make over $1,000,000, but this is without spending anything. Contrast this with professional athletes who make multi-million dollar salaries annually. The second thing that I want to point out is that her talents are recognized. It is common, for people to look down upon teachers, seeing the profession as a “backup” career. I, and most other people I know that want to be teachers, have been told to look for something else because we are “too smart to be teachers.” Teaching is a hard job. It takes talent to do it well. Why would we want anyone who is not talented or smart to teach our kids? it is nice to see that someone has dreamed of portraying teachers as talented. Lastly, while the teacher’s talents are recognized, she is receiving extra pay for test scores. Education has become so overloaded on data, that test scores become the mark of a good vs. great teacher and or even an ok or good teacher vs. a bad teacher. This mindset and evaluation process is not entirely bad. Data can show trends and places for improvement, but there is so much more to teaching than what can be revealed by a test. Tests don’t provide room for creativity, self-expression, looking through different points of view or explanations. Teaching to a test and evaluating teachers based on a test eliminates these factors from playing in to the value of a teacher and a child’s education and decreases them and their value in being taught to our kids.
In closing thoughts, imagine a society where teaching was valued like sports. Imagine teachers being encouraged and supported as they foster the development of youth. What if there was a teacher highlight reel to show positive moments from the day and little victories (like bringing an introvert into a discussion or raising a child’s confidence)? How would our attitude towards teachers and education change. While one blog post may not change the teaching industry into the sports industry, it can start movement. Consider thanking a teacher for the work that they do, recognizing a skill or talent that they have that is not related to a test score or giving a teacher a gift card to a restaurant to decrease the financial burden. Key and Peele, thank you for bringing the condition and attitudes of teachers to our awareness.