Image taken from here
As the recession rolls on and the politicians gear up for another fight on this new super committee, I drive back and forth to school getting ready for a new school year. One politician was discussing what could be cut save our country from the brink of bankruptcy and discussed Medicaid, a favorite target. The radio host asked whether doctors’ pay should be cut as well then. The politician scoffed at this notion; “We should not cut the pay of doctors,” he stated, “They save lives…”
Maybe it’s the salary freeze my district has imposed on teachers. Maybe it’s the rumors that my administration gave themselves raises. Maybe it is the political climate in Wisconsin that means I take a 12% pay cut this year; but I am mad. And this happy teacher often does not raise her voice, just ask my students. But when that politician scoffed at the notion of cutting doctors pay because they are lifesavers, I just about lost it. Let me tell you something; teachers save lives too.
Teachers are among the first to notice when a child goes hungry. They are also among the first to give that child their own lunch and to buy them food. Teachers are among the first who see children freezing, or wearing the same pair of holey shoes every day, rain or shine. Teachers are the ones who get clothing and proper winter gear for those who need it. If a child shows up with bruises or scratches, teachers are the ones who take note. Teachers are the ones who make those phone calls and follow up with government when nothing happens. Teachers are the ones who lie awake at night wondering what they can do to help those children.
And those are the big things. We save lives every day by taking an interest, by being passionate, and by believing in the kids. Sometimes these kids have no direction and we help them figure one out. Sometimes these kids come to us ready to take the wrong path and we help them go another way. Sometimes all a kid needs is a little attention, a little guidance, a little firmness and some love and we give that no questions asked. We don’t just teach the curriculum, we teach life.
When a child enters our classrooms, we take them under our wings; they become our children. When a child’s mood changes and depression looms, teachers are the ones who help get the help and assistance needed to veer off disaster. When home life crashes and that child tells you that they are living in a car, teachers do everything in their power to help. I have heard of and seen teachers bring in bags of clothing, food, furniture and donate money just to help. I have heard of teachers who invited families in to live with them until they could get back on their feet. Teachers save lives. And they are not the only ones; many people involved in education save lives. And yet, our pay can be cut because we only work 9 months out of the year anyway.
It is true some doctors save lives. But not all. A podiatrist makes on average $181,000 a year. That is more than 6 times what I make. They don’t save lives on a regular basis and yet they get the benefit of “being a doctor.” And that title alone means they command a better salary. Being a teacher means you better do it for the kids and not complain about the money that comes your way. If you complain about the money, well then, you are obviously in it for the wrong reason. Nobody tells doctors that they should be doing it for the patients. Sure most of them love what they do I’m sure, but I am also sure that some get the degree for that lucrative paycheck, and that’s ok. I wish everyone could get paid like a doctor.
So this isn’t to rip doctors’ of their pay or even of their status but rather ask why teachers can not be given that same respect Why can someone not scoff a the notion of cutting teachers’ pay to save the economy? Why can someone not claim as well that teachers save lives and do invaluable work and therefore should be rewarded and respected? I don’t ask for respect, I earn it. I don’t ask for status because I don’t care. I do ask for a decent salary, one to reflect the years of schooling that we go through and continue to pursue. One that reflects the time that our job takes to do well. One that reflects the work we do. But I am not holding my breath.
So yeah teachers save lives; we just don’t get paid like we do.