Putting Teachers at the Top

Image via iStockPhoto/Kristian Sekulic

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. A crappier load of BS was never uttered. I say, “Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, get out of the way.”

I am fed up with people who do not value teachers. Did these people not reach their station in life thanks to a teacher in some small (or large) way? I went to public school and private school. I attended a state public university and a private university for graduate school. My sons go to public school. I think I have broad perspective on the issue of education.

My Latin teacher in ninth grade was outstanding. My older brother had Dr. Larrick too, and we both keep up with him on Facebook. He inspires us still. We marvel at what he taught us. Scratch that. We marvel at how he taught us. Latin, the dead language, came alive under the jovial, eager tutelage of Dr. Larrick. We developed a lifelong love of language in those classes. We both credit our good grades and knack for grammar and language in large part to the time spent in those Latin classes of yore. Dr. Larrick taught public school.

I had some crappy public school teachers too. There was Mrs. B who ruled her middle school math class with a whip. She was a squinchy nosed prune of a lady who had not seen much laughter in her day. She wore her hair in a tight bun, and her instruction came across as a series of grunts. She was big and intimidating and ridiculed us when we made a mistake at the chalkboard. Mrs. B had perhaps seen happier days, but by the time I got her, she was an ogre. Her son was my gym teacher. Let’s just say that she was the tree to his apple.

In private school I had some fantastic teachers who challenged me and saw sparks of hope where I was drowning in despair. Mrs. Kovatch, my eleventh grade math teacher refused to give up on me or more importantly, let me give up on myself. Her patience was saintly and, for a brief time, she made me love math. A miracle indeed. She did more than teach me quadratic equations, she taught me to believe in myself. She gave me confidence.That alone was worth the tuition my father paid.

On the flip side, Mrs. R taught me chemistry in private school. Reprimanding and belittling students gave this woman an indescribable high. Her bloomers were in a bundle much of the time, and she had faced myriad hardships. I tried to remember that every time she snickered at me when I struggled balancing equations at the board. On Valentine’s Day she read a poem for me aloud to the class. I remember it to this day, 26 years later. “Roses are red, Violets are blue, Everyone’s passing, why aren’t you?” It would have been amusing had she had an ounce of humor or charm. Instead, she was just being mean. Just because the annual school tuition is more than most Americans earn in a year, doesn’t mean the private school is chock full of dandy teachers.

I’m sure we all share similar experiences. Teachers come in all shapes and sizes. They come to the classroom from various states of zeal and happiness. Their paradigms are varied, and their perspectives are colored by experience, time, and the like. They are no different from any other profession. We have all had stellar and shoddy doctors, bosses, mechanics, contractors, tailors, flight attendants, lawyers, the list goes on… Why single out teachers?

Consider this:

What if your corporate job handed you a team of people you had no say in choosing? You are charged with teaching this team the fundamentals of XYZ in your industry. You have about six hours a day of instruction and you are the sole person teaching. You have few resources for materials. Your group is comprised of people who live with persistent hunger, people who have limited proficiency in English, people who have been sleeping in a shelter or in their car, people who are in pain but have no access to medical attention, people who have no money for books and basic materials, people who require special services, people who are singled out for being different, people who have attention deficit disorders, people who have come from illiterate families, people who cannot see but cannot afford eye glasses, people who come from an abusive relationship, people who want the answers but don’t want to work. This is what a teacher is dealt. And sure, some of these problems are non-issues at private schools. But let me tell you, private school classrooms have their own challenges. That’s where you can have the entitled brats telling their teachers that daddy, who’s on the school’s board, can have the teacher fired. That’s where the students drive nicer cars than teachers can afford, and the socioeconomic totem pole is front and center of all school dynamics.

Imagine being productive in an environment where you have little control and cannot impact the very basic needs that drive success under your watch. Now imagine you have to fight for every ounce of respect society doles out and every cent on your paycheck. Imagine you are judged solely on what your group can accomplish, with no regard to how hard you tried and how dedicated you were. Imagine the battle teachers face just to be valued, socially, professionally, and financially.

If you ask me, teachers should be at the top of the totem pole, for without them, we would be nothing.

  • Preach on, sister! When you look at the results that Finland’s schools are getting and you look at the way they respect their teachers (both philosophically and financially), it’s clear what could happen in this country if we decided to make teaching a desirable profession.

  • There were two teachers that stood out for me throughout my grade school and high school years. They were my 5th /6th grade teacher, Mrs. Smith (she was my teacher for both grades) and my 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Feather.

    Mrs. Smith inspired me to reach for the highest star possible because my life would be what I’d make of it and NOT what happened to me. Mrs. Feather allowed me to have a voice and because of her, I discovered my love for writing and sharing my passion for telling stories. I wrote a children’s book in her class and my daughters get to read it now.

    Teachers are needed and NEED to be appreciated.


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