In those states, teachers are not “walking out” and confronting lawmakers because of singular issues like salary, benefits, or working conditions.
They are marching for respect.
What lawmakers in those states are learning very quickly is that there is a difference between rewarding teachers and respecting the teaching profession.
A reward is something that is given in recognition of someone’s service, effort, and/or achievement. One could get a reward for doing well on a project or completing a task. Some could look at a bonus check as a reward for accomplishing a goal.
However, this teacher wants more than a reward from my General Assembly. A lot of teachers want more than a reward. We want respect for all of our public school teachers.
To have respect is to have a deep feeling of admiration for someone because of his abilities, qualities, and value. It is understanding that someone is important and should be taken seriously.
In this highly contested election year, many will be fooled by lawmakers wanting to “reward” the teaching profession with bills that might offer more pay or actually fund a mandate and mistake that for respect. Respect goes much deeper.
I am very glad to see that NCAE will call on NC lawmakers to “Respect Public Education” on May 16th when the NCGA reconvenes because it brought to mind that there are many stark differences between rewards and respect.
- A reward sounds like something that can be used as a political ploy. Respect needs no political prompt.
- A reward could be a one-time gift. Respect is continuous and grows.
- A reward is a reaction to something. Respect guides your actions.
- A reward is giving teachers a small bonus that gets taxed by the state and has no effect on retirement. Respect would be to bring salaries for teachers at least to the national average.
- A reward would be to give a school some sort of distinction because it met a measurement achievement. Respect would be honoring teachers because of actual student growth in the face of factors out of the schools’ control.
- A reward would be providing more textbooks. Respect would be to keep growing per-pupil expenditures to ensure that all students got the resources they need.
- A reward would be giving a one-time pay hike to teachers. Respect would be to make sure they kept getting raises throughout their careers on a fair salary schedule and restoring longevity pay.
- A reward may be speaking highly of principals. Respect would be not ever allowing our average principal salary to rank next to last in the nation for so long.
- A reward may be to alter the teacher evaluation system. Respect would be to restore due-process rights for all teachers.
- A reward may be to give more professional development for teachers. Respect would be restoring pay bumps for graduate degrees.
We have seen what a lack of respect for teachers has done to our state in a short amount of time. Where we once were considered a flagship state system, we are now in a state of regression. So while I will not decline a “reward” of a pay raise, I will tell my lawmakers that affording more respect to teachers, administrators, and teacher assistants could go a long in helping stop the attrition of teaching talent in North Carolina.
Why? Because if you respect something you will show it through your actions, not just your campaign speeches and vague promises.
And respect can work both ways. For those lawmakers who view public education as a priority and view teachers with respect, I will not only reward them with my vote, I would show my respect by supporting them throughout their terms.
But most importantly, don’t reward me for teaching. Respect me for being a teacher.