A little girl drops an armful of stuffed animals on the floor and lines them up one at a time against the foot of her bed. She grabs a few of her favorite picture books and places them in front of the little row of fuzzy friends. Next, she places a piece of paper and a crayon in front of each stuffed animal. “Now class,” the little girl says as she grabs one of the books on the floor, “today we’re going to read Oh the Thinks You Can Think by Dr. Suess,” and proceeds to read the book out-loud to her “class.”
That little girl was me. When I played pretend, one of my favorite things to do was to play teacher. I knew from a very early age that this is what I wanted to do for a career. I don’t know if it was just something I naturally felt drawn to or if it was because of the profound effect my teachers had had on me. Whatever it was, I knew my dream was to become a teacher.
As we grow older, however, we acquire responsibilities that factor into our career choices, such as paying for food, housing, and family. When people think of well-paying professions, teaching probably doesn’t make the list. According to the National Education Association, the average salary in 2011-2012 for a public school teacher in the United States was $55,418. In comparison, the average household income in the United States was $52,762. As education majors, we realize that choosing to be a teacher will make us an average income, and will probably never make us wealthy. We still choose to become teachers though because the role of a teacher is worth more than the paycheck.
When you walk into the McKay Building through the northeast entrance, you pass a quote printed on the wall from President David O. McKay where he says, “I think it must be apparent to every thinking mind that the noblest of all professions is that of teaching…” The name of this blog was taken from a manual used in the LDS church called: “Teaching: No Greater Call.” What makes teaching such a noble and great profession?
Children spend more time in the classroom with their teacher than with any other person, second only to parents. Because of this position, what a teacher says, does, and believes can influence their students in a very personal way, no matter how small it may seem. When I think of people who really helped me become the person I am today, the names of several teachers instantly come to my mind. These people chose a smaller paycheck and gave their time and effort to help me grow. They inspired me, encouraged me, believed in me. They taught me to set goals, reach for the stars, be confident in myself, and never give up. Without these teachers, who were willing to sacrifice a larger paycheck to take the position they did, I wouldn’t be in the same place I am today.
So the question I want to pose to you readers is this: should money be the deciding factor in job selection?
In one of my classes last semester, we watched a clip on YouTube of a poem by Taylor Mali called “What Teachers Make.” Mr. Mali is a poet and former teacher himself. In this poem, he address negative comments made by an acquaintance in regards to what teachers make. Mr. Mali responds by saying, “I make parents see their children for who they are and who they can be…I make kids wonder, I make ’em question, I make ’em criticize, I make ’em apologize and mean it…I make a difference. Now what about you?”
Although teachers may not be able to change their salary, they can, in this sense, decide what they “make.” You can decide to be a positive influence. You can decide the example you set. You can decide to help your students leave your classroom better people than they were before. You can make a difference.