Over the past few months, I have become increasingly confident in my decision to pursue school librarianship. It’s an ideal fit for me and my talents, and I can’t wait to enter the field as a professional and begin making a difference.
Yet, I have my doubts. Why? Because right now, it kind of feels like only a fool would want to enter the field of education, particularly public education. All you have to do is read the news, or skim it, really, to hear the vitriol being directed at teachers. Teachers have it easy, you see, they only work until about 2:30 in the afternoon, and they get summer break! And they make lots of money! And some of them don’t even bother to show up for work!
It is discouraging, to say the very least, to read about stories like that of my friend, who works in a struggling Kentucky high school and will be fighting to keep her job in the course of ten minutes Monday morning. To hear Scott Brown, the enlightened governor of Wisconsin, insisting that he must curtail the greed of teachers (while others of his party vigorously defend the tax cuts for couples making $250,000 a year or more – the inconsistency, it burns).
Here’s the thing. I do not plan to take my job lightly when I begin working. To plan creative lessons, to envision collaboration with subject teachers, to teach your children to have the technology and critical thinking skills they will need to succeed in life? That takes effort. Effort, planning, careful thought, and a lot of time. Time that extends past 2:30 pm.
I am entering the field of education as a school media specialist because I believe I can make a difference, that I can help change the lives of students, and because I believe strongly in what the profession stands for. But, Mr. President, if you want to know why more bright, young people aren’t becoming teachers,* I would ask you to open the newspaper and really read what our nation’s leaders are saying about its teachers. We are not a culture that values teaching or teachers. We are cutting teaching positions in a time of economic crisis. Teachers might have the most important job after parents in terms of shaping the future workers and leaders of America, but what they do is not appreciated. Sure, everyone can recall a favorite teacher, but those fond memories do not translate into the public rhetoric or support for teachers from those in positions of power. Until that happens, Mr. President, I suspect many of my peers will maintain the same attitude: it’s nice, but why would I go on a fool’s errand when life could be that much less stressful?
*In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama discussed his vision of education for America’s future, and spoke of wanting to encourage more bright, talented young people to pursue careers in education.