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What Makes Teachers Special?

appleThe Ohio House Education Committee recently voted to remove the minimum pay scale for teachers in Ohio.  With the committee vote completed, this measure now moves to the full house.  If this becomes law, House Bill 343 will make Ohio’s system of public education less stable, less viable, less equitable, and less effective.  In short it is a bad idea with major consequences for our children.

One of the supporters of this bill is Representative John Becker who when interviewed by about the proposed legislation responded with the rhetorical question “What makes teachers special as a profession that they can’t live on merit pay the way the rest of us do?”  Although I don’t think he is asking the question because he is interested in the answer, I am happy to answer it.

“What makes teachers special?”

Here are a few things from my personal perspective that make teachers special.  Note that none are measurable with a standardized test or dependent upon receiving merit pay:

  • Every day my kids spend hours with teachers.  In fact during a typical work week they spend more waking hours with them than with me.  No other profession is given this type of access to my children.  No other profession bears this responsibility.  There is no other profession that I place greater trust in each and every day.  Certainly this task is worthy of at least a minimum level of compensation in order to attract the most qualified professionals to the field. In my opinion, this alone is more than enough reason to support a minimum compensation structure for teachers.
  • When my daughter was recovering from reconstructive surgery following the removal of a cancerous tumor on her eye lid, her teacher sacrificed her planning period for months to sit and talk with her every day at lunch and help her cope with her fears and frustrations.
  • As my son struggles with an undiagnosed neurological condition and has episodes during the school day that cause him to experience complete disorientation and sometimes collapse to the floor unconscious, his teachers are there to care for him. They make sure he’s ok, help him overcome this affliction and adapt their approach to help him fit in socially and excel academically.
  • When kids go off to places like Camp Kern or Washington D.C., teachers are there with them – away from their own families – to make sure our kids are not just learning, but also safe and taken care properly.
  • When extra resources are needed for classrooms, teachers routinely dip into their own wallets to pay for them.
  • During their free time on nights and weekends, teachers routinely go to sporting events, plays, community activities, birthday parties, and any number of other activities that their students are involved in because they care about their kids.
  • My teachers played a pivotal role in helping me to understand the world.  I can tell you the name of every teacher I every had. They all helped me learn something about the world and about myself. They explained algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, history, psychology, politics, art, music, and physical education.  These concepts were presented from different perspectives and contexts by teachers who taught me how to ask questions, think critically, formulate my own ideas, and express them with my own voice.
  • Teachers don’t demand a path to financial wealth through their chosen vocation.  Even with additional certifications and peak performance the earning potential of a teacher is capped.  It’s pretty clear that they don’t do it for the money.  Teachers teach because they care about our kids and our future.
  • Teachers don’t get to choose their clients.  They get a new group of kids every year and are responsible for teaching them regardless of ability or background.  Every kid matters to a teacher.
  • Teachers don’t get to vote themselves a pay increase regardless of their performance – only Ohio’s lawmakers get that privilege.

These are but a few of the things I believe make teachers special. Certainly there are many more.  What do you think makes teachers special?

If you think teachers are special and that eliminating Ohio’s framework for minimum compensation is a bad idea, why not visit Representative Becker’s website, send him an email, and answer his question with your words?  Explain to him what you think makes teachers special.  Then visit your own Ohio representative’s page and your state senators page, tell them why teachers are special, and ask them to vote no on HB 343.