This tradition is something her soccer team has continued all these Friday’s later. It’s where we continue to meet with families who no longer play on her soccer team and get to know new families who join each year.
This past weekend was no exception.
Because I’m a teacher, as are several other parents, the conversation often turns to education. This weekend turned to teacher salary and the raises districts all over Orange County are negotiating for teachers this year.
From our hour-long conversation, one comment from a parent stuck with me. He was arguing the merits of teacher raises and amid his many cogent arguments mentioned, “We need to pay well so we can get good teachers.”
This idea has been percolating now for a few days. It’s a ubiquitous line bantered about any time teacher salary is discussed. I began to wonder this weekend -- what do we mean by “good” and is this argument true?
Let’s start with “good.” What do we mean by a “good” teacher? Sure, teachers have a set of teaching standards by which they are evaluated, the CSTP (California Standards for the Teaching Profession). But how do these standards translate to the day-in and day-out in the classroom?
In addition to the standards, I might argue a “good” teacher must, first-and-foremost, love kids. More money doesn’t change this. I might also add a “good” teacher must love their content. More money doesn’t change this, either. From an administrative perspective, a “good” teacher might mean the teacher is coachable. Does more money change or influence this? I think not.
I challenge you to think about what you think makes for a “good” teacher and ask yourself if more money changes any of those key traits.
During this Friday night’s discussion, we tried to equate teaching and teacher salaries to what I call the “real world.” It felt like an exercise in futility. Industry is driven by results -- you perform, get performance reviews, and earn performance increases, or you get fired. Unfortunately, education isn’t driven by results; both “good” and bad teachers are contractually paid the same. Should ALL teachers be rewarded with an 8 or 10 percent pay increase this year -- just because?
Let’s go back to my friend’s claim that “We need to pay well so we can get good teachers.” I’m going to disagree. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a teacher and would love a big raise, but I think his claim is a fallacy.
I argue that teachers teach because they are called to it. Most teachers are teachers because it’s their passion, because to become a teacher isn’t easy. It’s not a profession that you can just fall into. To earn a credential requires lots of jumping through hoops; it’s an intentional decision. And we don’t have a teacher shortage in California, so many young people are already deciding to teach. Why is this? Could it be that teaching offers something no other career can? Something more than money can buy? How about benefits. Job security. Holiday breaks. Step raises year-over-year regardless performance. Stipends for work above and beyond the contract day. A quality of life that contractually requires a teacher to work only 185 out of 365 days of every year.
Again, don’t get me wrong. I love teachers, and a “good” one can inspire kids to greatness. But I’m not sure pay is the answer to ensuring our kids get one of the “good” ones.
What I wish is that more parents demanded results. What I wish is that more parents spoke up about teachers who cause detriment to our kids. What I wish is that more parents got involved in more ways than just writing more checks.
What I wish is that some of that money going to raises was spent on kids, because, let’s not forget, that’s the business we’re in.
I don’t claim to know or have a silver bullet for “good” teaching, but I do know that money isn’t the answer.