The year I began teaching, 1981, my school district was preparing to strike.
They were in heavy negotiations with the School Board and we had a mediator working for us. It seemed to take forever.
Being a brand new teacher, I was told that without tenure, I shouldn’t be on the marching picket line. I was to do odd jobs like prepare food and baby sit for teachers’ children.
It was exhilarating to be a part of this collective group. There was a sort of an insular protection; a nurturing, if you will. It is what senior teachers often give the new ones in their midst; like the birds that hover around the nest.
My starting salary back then, was $14,000. This wasn’t enough to live on even in 1982 but I received a full match toward my pension, 100% coverage of my insurance, my copay for prescriptions of any kind was $2.00. It was those things that made $14,000 seem like a livable wage. Teaching was considered a “secondary income”.
Sadly, many people who are not in the education field believe that teachers have these same benefits today, and make, maybe, 6 times the salary. This is far from the truth.
Michigan teachers currently fund their retirement savings accounts. They have options to put their money in Health Savings Accounts, Union Dues, Insurance Plans, and IRAs. Striking is against the law.
My sister, who will turn 66 in January, has chosen to stay in the field. She believes that what she does makes a difference. She enjoys what she does. The waves of give and take have washed over her many times. Yet, when she left to work in the business world while working on her Master’s Degree, she felt the call to go back into her chosen field.
My friends, it is a calling. Not everyone can be a doctor, minister, a soldier, or counselor. Not everyone can feel compelled to work in the wild, nurse the sick, police our villages or uphold the law. These are professional callings.
When I work with early career teachers, I like to talk about what they think they will doing in 10 years. Some say teach, of course. Some say maybe something more exciting. Still others may see themselves in administration of education, or mark undecided.
You see, the ones that are called, will stay. They will choose to work when more and more of their “perks” go up in vapor. They understand that THE one most important factor is the state of our world and the leaders we will assist with our lessons.
Why is it, then, that we thank soldiers for their service? Why do we look at a doctor as if they are demi gods? Why speak respectfully to the minister?
The United States is in a tough spot when it comes to those who hear the calling, and actually act on it.
The value of a good teacher does not come with a price. It is a gift that can keep on giving for a lifetime to those students who have been lucky enough to sit in the classroom of someone who is truly called to the craft.
We need these people. We must value these people. They really do MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
Thanks for listening.