Teaching is a Calling
“If you don’t like the money, you can find another job,” A college administrator once told me.
There was no concern about the process of de-professionalization of college teaching. There was no concern about an adjunct salary slightly above a fast food worker. There was no concern about the likelihood of having to rely on the charity of food banks and government services when you possess a terminal degree.
Do something that pays more. That’s the answer to any complaint, anywhere in the society, anytime. Such is the prevailing conventional wisdom.
If the free market produces just and perfect results and it must by the nature of its neo-religious believers, than the status and pay that you receive must by the very nature of a competitive society be just and honorable.
It isn’t. It is neither just nor honorable, and it is not based on any known concept of fairness. It is simply a matter of the strong taking from the weak in pursuit of a set of policy objectives.
This process takes its toll on those of who try to work in this profession. I tell my colleagues that just as soon as the students understand our actual salaries and our relative importance to administrators and legislators, they are going to treat us with the same contempt we receive from them. They’re going to wonder that since they paid good money to be taught, why a glorified fast food worker should have any authority to question them as to their understanding of the subject matter. For after all, if your salary is the primary indicator of your value, we’re only worth a fraction of the likely salary of our students while our lack of salary is a clear indicator that our work has little importance and that in a capitalist society, we are over-educated failures.
Why do we hold on in the face of the contempt of the politicians, the beltway media, the “very serious” people and every sort and breed of businessman? Because we care about our students. Because when we teach we feel important and empowered. And that feeling is legitimate because as teachers we are in a real way, the creators of our nation, the shapers of the next generation, and the architects of a democratic society.
It is highly likely that in the times to come, history books will discuss education in the United States in this period as the last candle light before the darkness, the last time in which significant academic freedom existed before college and universities became testing centers based on a purely standardized set of programs dictated by corporate needs.
Read below the thoughts of one teacher as she struggles to teach in a difficult environment. –
I’ve often said that the classroom is my “happy place.” The one place where I can be present; where I can forget about Wisconsin politics, committee meetings, campus and departmental bureaucracy, and just do what I love. It’s that time of year where most of us are exhausted. Where we have students who may just now be realizing they’re failing a class and asking for extra credit. Where we’re already burnt out and we’ve still got 7 weeks left in the semester. Where we’re counting the days to finals week because we are all so tired. I’m in that space, too. I’ve been there before. But I am grateful, and always will be, to the students now and in the past who remind me why I teach. Who remind me how much I love doing my job. And who have clutched me out of the depths of sadness, especially this semester.