The value of teaching

Emily Wachter , Managing Editor

“So, what are you going to do? Just be a teacher?”

This is the reaction I get when someone asks about my future and how I plan on making a living with an English degree. While being a teacher is a part of my plan and I enjoy sharing these plans with others, the flippant responses and condescending tones I’m often met with are frustrating.

Although these types of responses are typically reserved for people in the humanities, individuals in every field can be plagued with condescending remarks about plans to teach. In fact, the entire practice of teaching seems to be a profession many young adults look down on. To be honest, this attitude towards teaching seems very hypocritical and unfair.

Everyone has been affected by a teacher or professor at least once in life. Even when there are some not-so-great experiences with a teacher, students need teachers to help shape their minds and abilities so they can be fully functioning adults. You may have had your own share of bad experiences with a teacher; most have. But, let’s be honest. None of us would be here – attending FMU and working towards a degree – without the help of former teachers and our current professors. Even our professors wouldn’t be here without the influence of their former teachers.

With all the positive influences teachers can have in students’ lives and with the need for teachers’ instruction to help students meet expectations, why is the profession so looked down upon? One of the most obvious answers is the low wages that many teachers earn.

There’s a direct correlation between the value people put on a profession and the salary of a person in that profession. Most teachers, especially those teaching in elementary education or in small, private schools, often struggle to make ends meet due to lack of funding for teachers’ salaries or simply a lack of emphasis on education. Even in university settings, many professors, mainly those specialized in arts or humanities, simply don’t receive wages that accurately and fairly relate to the work they do each day. Clearly, this imbalance between teachers’ wages and their work illustrates a low level of respect for teachers.

Teaching is considered a service-based job, meaning teachers are paid for services they can provide for a certain clientele. This may play a role in the perceptions of teaching. However, other professionals in the service industry, such as doctors, lawyers and police officers are highly esteemed, and students are encouraged to pursue these types of jobs. With that being said, none of those professionals could effectively perform their tasks without constant help or instruction from teachers.

Since students are in school for such a large portion of their lives, teachers and professors have the most influence and impact on students’ minds. Sometimes students receive help on academic work from family members, friends or tutors, but, for the most part, teachers are responsible for giving students all the tools necessary to survive in academic and professional careers.

As college students, professors play an indirect role in all of our professional successes, so why not give them more respect in exchange for the knowledge and help they’ve given to you?