I got a new student today. Today. Eleven weeks before school lets out for summer. At the end of class, the kid told me that was the first time she understood what was going on in math class for as long as she could remember. Her presence, along with some other things I've been thinking about, prompted me to pull out my computer and write what's been on my mind...
I teach in one of the lowest paid states for public education teachers. I work with unbelievably dedicated people who make daily sacrifices to do what they do for a living: to serve other people's kids.
Sadly, I often hear comments like, "I'm just going to go work at Starbucks. I'll make more money there."
Now, let me be clear: there is no question in my mind that we are grossly underpaid.
I understand that we all have frustrating days, where anything sounds better than our current position. But, I also know that--at least for me--the good days far, far outweigh the bad. And if they don't for you, you might want to consider leaving. You're right: we don't get paid enough to be miserable all the time.
But, I imagine most of you became teachers knowing full well the monetary sacrifice you would make. As I recently heard it put so elegantly, you didn't show up for the income, you showed up for the outcomes.
You enlisted because even though we're underpaid and unappreciated by adults, we have kids who adore us and would do just about anything for us.
You kept coming because you knew your kids needed a safe, encouraging, hopeful place. And you are sure as hell going to give that to them. Even if for just one hour a day, a hundred eighty days a year.
You kept reporting for duty because you believe in public education. Who else is going to take the kids who change schools every few months? Who else would take a kid eleven weeks before summer and say, "Hey, we don't know each other yet, but we will. And I will do everything in my power to get you caught up and to be successful in my class."
You continued to show up because you're committed to leveling the playing field. Because you believe every kid should have an opportunity at a quality education--regardless of zip code. Because you're driven by the idea that you want every kid to feel better about themselves leaving your doors than they did entering them. Because you see kids not for who they are, but for who they can be. Because you believe they can make this world a better place. Because you know that they are the hope of the future. Because you understand that education is key to overcoming poverty, prejudice, and ignorance. And because you feel this indescribably fulfilling joy every time you're reminded of why you do what you do because of something kind a kid said or did.
Yeah, we don't make a lot financially. But what we do make is not quantifiable.
And so, to all those who recognize this (and that is the vast majority of my fellow teachers), thank you. Thank you for believing in this profession. Thank you for persevering through the bad days, through the media bashing, through the uninformed comments from both loved ones and strangers.
Thank you for choosing to see the positive in public education. For knowing that it's not perfect, but for striving for perfection regardless. Please, keep doing what you're doing. We need you. We need each other.
And your kids need you, more than they'll ever be able to express.