In a recent article in The Robesonian, Sarah Willets quoted Governor Pat McCrory as being inspired by a former teacher to suggest a pay hike for teachers in this election year. He said:
“Ruth Revels was one of those teachers who had a lasting impact and influence on me. I will always remember her passion and strong belief in each one of her students. In honor of Mrs. Revels who recently passed away, I announced a plan to reward teachers for their hard work and raise average pay to over $50,000 plus benefits.”
When someone remembers a teacher’s impact on his life, that teacher must have been special. In fact, there are many Mrs. Revels in this state and many more are still embarking on the teaching profession.
But I am stuck on one word – “reward.”
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 governor and his General Assembly. This teacher wants 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.
I was very glad to see that NCAE called on lawmakers to “Restore Respect” during Teacher Appreciation Week 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.
- 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. We once were considered a flagship state system. 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 way 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 election year 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.