The role of teachers in our society has been criticized in some quarters today. But I believe that this most valuable profession must be elevated, rather than run-down, if we are to improve the current and future quality of life in the United States.
Indeed, we should be doing all we can to draw talented young students to colleges of education so that they can prepare for a career that is admired, respected, and rewarded. And this requires us to re-write the basics of the K-12 teaching profession.
The educational refresh I have in mind starts with adequate government funding. Elected officials should help teachers teach in the best way they know how. This means providing necessary resources in schools, as well as making sure that teachers are properly remunerated.
Right now, many teachers aren’t getting the respect they deserve. And that helps explain why about one in every two new teachers leaves the field after five years or less. As Tom Peters once said, “If we want to look at a disrespected profession, we should look at our teachers.”
There are several key reasons why many K-12 teachers are leaving their profession today. In some cases, they are asked to teach to standardized tests, their creativity has been revoked, and they work too many hours for the pay they earn.
The National Education Association estimates K-12 teachers earn an average yearly salary of $56,643 despite having college degrees that range from a BA to MA. These salaries don’t align with the time, thought, planning, and dedication that these jobs demand.
I often reflect back on John Dewey’s Laboratory School theory, which was based on the premise that learning happens best through experience. And now I ask: How can we revive this thinking among K-12 teachers who use their creativity to provide experiential learning?
The answers are fairly straightforward: increase the rigor in K-12 teaching degree programs; offer appropriate compensation and benefits to worthy teachers; make it easier for teachers to move from one state to another without negatively impacting their retirement opportunities; and reward teachers with a bonus structure for their accomplishments and results.
I believe we can make teaching a respected profession. In doing so, we can build a better tomorrow for children, families, and industries across our nation and throughout the world.