Teachers Aren’t Martyrs

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September 1, 2015 by Devin

I hate telling people that I am going to be a teacher.

The response is usually unfairly positive. People are like, “Oh that’s so great,” “You’re such a noble soul,” etc. It’s awful.

First off, I have not actually done anything yet, so I don’t like people talking about me as if I have done something actually noble.

But on the other hand, how screwed up is it that that is what people’s reactions are?

This is just going to be my teaching picture. Expect this frequently on school posts.

People usually react to me teaching as if I said I was going to feed children in Africa or recycle all the things, but I’m not. I’m training for a job.

That is the thing: teaching is a profession. Yet we so often treat teachers as if they are supposed to be martyrs dying for their cause. I really think this is a dangerous idea. It allows people to justify not supporting teachers. It is okay if teachers work two jobs because of course they are dedicated enough to do that. Nobody bats an eye at the teacher who works 9-6 and then takes home work with them because they are that dedicated. Teachers buying school supplies for their kids using their own money is not a sign that the school system is not giving them the resources they need but rather just a sign that that teachers has that big a heart.

And you know, teaching is not all that different from other professions. Sure, it is someone being paid for by tax dollars to supply a public good, but that is just like firefighters, just like police officers, just like government officials, and just like the members of the armed forces. If a police officer had to use their own vehicle to patrol, people would raise an eyebrow, but the equivalent is fine for teachers. Nobody sees someone running for governor and says, “Oh, you’re such a noble soul.” And hey, if you suggested we lower the pay for the members of the armed forces because serving there is just their calling, as was suggested for teachers, you would be attacked by all sides.

I do not want to just talk about how teachers are not appreciated enough. They are not, especially the ones, unlike me, who have actually done something.

But too often that praise is mixed with a dangerous perspective on teaching. Instead of saying, “It’s great that you sacrificed your whole life to supply this basic human need,” maybe ask why the sacrifice was necessary in the first place.

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