In South Korea, teachers are known as Nation Builders. Really. Nation Builders. This is a label, which offers credence and respect to a role that is often overlooked in the United States. What can be more important than teaching our children? We hear the rhetoric often. But how does it balance with the way we treat teachers?
Depending on the website you visit, the salary for beginning teachers in SC is around $28,000. This can go higher if the teacher hired has an advanced degree. Teachers who hang around for eight or more years can climb to $43,000. Even 56K after 15 years. That is not a bad salary. There are benefits as well. According to teacherportal.com, we are 30th in the nation in beginning salaries. Hmmm.
Is a Nation Builder supposed to take on his/her profession out of complete passion? Without any desire for a better lifestyle? To improve the condition of one’s car? To be able to stand on one’s on without a necessary 2nd salary? On the other hand, do we as a country need to recognize that we get what we pay for? In a country that highly values celebrities and sports heroes, wouldn’t it make sense that those who are developing the minds of our children be as important – dare I say it – or as enriched as the doctors who care for their bodies? As the people who build their schools? As the attorneys who approve the contracts of the principals?
Okay. Let us pretend for a moment that the above amounts are sufficient salaries for teachers. What I cannot find in a website is the average amount that teachers spend on classroom and student supplies out of their own pockets. Why not ask your child’s teacher. How much did you spend this month on your students? How much do you think it is? How many crayons, backpacks, lunches, or field trips do teachers finance because they love their students? Or they can’t stand to see little Johnny not have sufficient paper on which to draw or do math? Or they just feel it is right if there are apples or bananas (and occasionally candy) – or valentines, or stockings, or juice for their charges?
I know it is up to them whether they spend their money on the kids. Sure it is. It is also their choice to become teachers. To get that three months off in the summer. Which never equates to three months. To arrive early, stay late, sponsor a club or team, eat the cafeteria food, encourage the student whose parents never show up to give attention to their children. Never respond to emails, nor call the teacher back about the attendance of their own children. Our teachers are supposed to be the best and the brightest, and the developers of our children’s’ minds. They are supposed to carry the weight of making sure your child passes, or does his homework, or doesn’t cut up in class, or gets some love and attention to help him or her to grow as a student. To be a parent often in the parent’s absence. Do we pay them enough? What was I thinking?