I spent much of Saturday driving my 14 year old daughter around town, picking up bits and pieces of ladies’ golf attire for her high school team practice and tournaments. My dreams of finding some nice, inexpensive golf shirts in Ross or T J Maxx came up short; lots of guys’ golf shirts – no ladies. I had to bite the bullet and go to a sporting goods store, which isn’t known for bargain prices. Despite the expense, I was enjoying spending time with my middle child. She was in a chatty mood. The conversation turned to her career choices.
I think I’d like to be a lawyer (this has been the top pick for at least six years now), or a talk show host (she’d rock that too), or a realtor. Really, a realtor? That’s new. “Well”, she said, “I think that’s something I would enjoy and be good at, and make a lot of money doing. I am DEFINITELY going to have a job where how much money I make is tied into how good I am at doing it.” Hmmm. Was that a raised eyebrow I saw pointed my way?
I broached the idea that success isn’t always defined in monetary terms (I’m a Montessorian, after all – it’s all about the intrinsic motivation with us). Oh yes, definitely – that WAS a raised eyebrow. “I know, I know, you love your job,” she says to me, “I plan on having a job I love too, but when I work hard at it, and am successful at it, I also plan on being rewarded for it.” Not just in her heart, but in her bank account too, was the clear implication. “You are probably a pretty good teacher,” she continued, “but no matter how good you get, the amount of money you make will be always be limited. AND, you actually spend your own money on your job,” (that sentence uttered with a good dose of incredulity). “When I get to be the best at what I do, I think it’s fair to expect that I’ll be paid accordingly.”
Okay, fourteen year old; you’ve got a point. You live my life with me and you see that, in spite of my love for my job, money can be tight. I know you understand that when you choose whatever college to pursue whichever career you finally decide on, you are going to be applying for student loans. I know you understand that’ll be, in part at least, because your own mother is an educator.
Pause for thought.
The old question rises; how is it that movie stars and sports stars get paid the millions while teachers are lucky to make it into the $40,000 range? Sadly, I suspect that it speaks to our priorities as a society; we clearly place more value on being well entertained than well educated.
No wonder we are experiencing teacher shortages and seeing enrollment in teacher education colleges down almost 50% in places. We are raising generations of smart children with a good sense of self worth. They tend to be extrinsically motivated, and place a high value on reward, validation, money and things. How can we expect these children to grow into adults who willingly opt for a job which requires every bit the same hard work, time and expense in college as other career choices, but will ultimately make higher demands on them, while paying them far less than their similarly educated peers?
I can’t help but wonder; who will our future teachers be? Do we lose generations of potentially magnificent teachers to well paid jobs where they aren’t constantly held to public scrutiny, political whim and unattainable, ever changing standards?
And, very seriously, when will we finally care enough about the future of education in America (the future of America’s children), to do something about it?