Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Giving Education Apathy the Boot!

Working full-time for a very demanding and fast-paced sales corporation while going to Graduate School for my Master's in Education is both exciting and overwhelming at the same time.  Time is precious, to say the least.  And the situations and challenges that I face on a daily base drive me to reevaluate priorities and consider life’s opportunities constantly.  When the going gets tough, I consistently remind myself that education is the most important thing in the world.  This is why I have chosen to become a teacher, among many other motives.  However, realizing the significance of education and loving children doesn’t seem to be a good enough answer for most of my peers.  They want to know why, and so the story begins…

A few weeks ago, a friend and colleague of mine, was observing me studiously reading a text on how to teach literacy in an elementary classroom.  While witnessing my struggles and determination to get things finished during my lunch break she asked me a simple yet tremendously blunt question about my choices in life:
“Rushel, why in the world would you take this ridiculous pay-cut, go through all this stress and drudgery, just to become a teacher?  Do you KNOW how much teachers make?”
The questions themselves caught me off guard, but the disgusted look upon her face paired with the tone her voice projected caused me to pause in my assessment and simply smile to her.  But then I had to ask, what does motivate me to become an educator?  It’s obviously not the projected salary, it wasn’t because my mother was a teacher, and it’s not because I want the summers off.  Of course I can list the numerous cliché, yet true reasons why I do want to become a teacher: changing the world, loving children, yadda yadda.  But the truth is: I want to do something exciting and worthwhile in my life.   But more importantly I think I was given a gift, and I would be selfish and ridiculous to just sit on it.  The short answer is, I LOVE education, and I want to be a part of it forever.

Another friend of mine has a brother who is a teacher.  Ever since I told her that I wanted to become a teacher the stories of her brother’s woes started flowing out of her mouth like projectile vomit.  She tells me tales all day long about her brother’s challenges and complaints about the education system and fellow peers.  One day she explained, “I don’t know how many times I have heard him say, ‘Mrs. So-and-so shows a video at least one day a week…she is so lazy!’”  In my sheltered mind, I refuse to believe that any teacher is lazy.  Yet, I am sure I am naïve, because they obviously exist.  And then I ask myself, what causes education apathy?  Do education boards and principals demand too much from teachers, especially for the salaries they are given?  Or is it that they do not demand enough?  Is it that educators are burnt out and just don’t care anymore?  Do educators choose to become teachers for all the wrong reasons?  No matter the motivation, these are not the type of teachers we want in our education system today. 

At some point or another, we all hear in the news about standardized testing and the United States falling behind other countries in terms of schooling.  As stated above, there are obviously many things to contribute to this dilemma.  But something that I am afraid of is that we just don’t care.  By, ‘we’ I mean teachers, board members, parents and students.  Education apathy is rampant across the ‘States’.  Is this because teachers are lazy or because students just aren’t given the right tools to learn?  Are we out of resources?  Do teachers not have the proper resources?  Have video games, television, internet-websites, etc caused children not to read or want to learn the basics?  What are the answers to all these questions?  Better yet, are there answers at all?  I am sure it is a combination of everything.  These facts only make me more determined to become the best teacher that I can be.  

By now, I am sure I sound quite redundant, as I do when I am passionate about a particular topic.  But to answer the question that my colleague posed of me not so long ago, I’m not just changing my career simply because I love kids, or because I want my summers off.  Perhaps I want to be an advocate to get rid of education apathy as a whole.  I believe I am very good at motivating people, and my passion and knowledge for education is vast. This, along with my passion for children and willingness to be open-minded and learn is what will make me a good teacher.  I only hope that there are more of us out there. 


  1. I always complain about the salary that we are going to make because I know how much work and stress we have to deal with on a daily basis and the money does not match up, but that's life. And just because a teacher shows a movie does not mean they are lazy, you do not know the activities or lesson that the teacher uses to go with the movie, however, I do believe that there are lazy teachers because I have had to observe one before in a special education classroom, which is mean to say, but what do you call a teacher that sits at her desk and reads the newspaper when she's supposed to be teaching?

  2. Yes, I feel like probably everyone will be stressed at some point that the salary does not equal the hard work put in. However, I'm still amazed at how many people still wonder why someone wants to do a job that doesn't pay very well -- do people STILL not realize that loving your job is more important than how much you make? There are negative sides to every job but it's easier to list the ones that come with teaching because everyone has been in a classroom and witnessed it first hand, which can't be said for all other professions.

  3. I think you bring up a lot of good points, and the money issue is a real problem. Money usually means status, and the underlying problem is that teachers don't have a revered or elevated status in our society in this country. *That* is what we truly have to work on changing. Hopefully the higher salaries will follow.