Reflecting on the school year, I recently posted on my agency’s Facebook page that I hoped the next TIME Magazine “Person of the Year” honor would be given to the American teacher. Aside from theories and theorems, today’s teacher also serves as a bodyguard for however many students reside in his or her classroom. From campus shootings to EF-5 tornadoes, teachers are now pressured to be skilled in reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and…reaction.
Yet teaching is one of the lowest paying, least appreciated professions in the book. So when I told a colleague that my daughters intend to be teachers one day, he shook his head in disagreement. “Why would you encourage that?” he asked. “Push them into something else. Instead of teaching math and science for a living, why aren’t you making them do math and science for a living?”
You mean, why am I not preaching the success stories of Meg Whitman, the former CEO of Ebay and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook? I could tell you why, but I think I’ll let my 9-year old daughter, Ava, explain herself instead.
“When I grow up, I want to be a teacher. My mom teaches when she is in-between writing projects, and I want to be like her. I want to teach children how to read and write.
Becoming a teacher will take a lot of hard work, because I will have to master subjects such as English and Algebra. I will have to keep making good grades so I can get a college scholarship to attend a nice school like the University of Charleston. I know I have to take two tests, the ACT and the SAT, before I can be accepted. I still may have to work while I go to school to get my elementary education degree. Then, I will have to pass more tests to get a teaching certificate.
I want to give students a positive start in school. I’d like to take care of younger students who might miss their parents. Also, I want students to love learning so they can be smart and prepared for the next year of school.
I hope to find a teaching job that would let me stay in West Virginia. I’d like to work at my current elementary school, because I have learned so much in each grade. I think I’d like to teach kindergarten so that I can give children the proper start they need in school.
In ending, I feel that being a teacher is difficult work but a great career because every child deserves a chance to learn lots of information from someone who cares.” (Westest Writing Assessment)
The main idea of this story isn’t about money. Ava never mentions how much she’ll earn or what she’ll spend it on. In time, I’m sure this will change. But for now, the main idea is about giving others a brighter future. What do I want for her, though? I don’t want her to stop here. I want my daughter to keep going. While there’s absolutely nothing “wrong” with becoming a kindergarten teacher, I do hope she’ll press on to obtain a master’s degree or a Ph.D. We want her to become that teacher…then principal…then dean or provost…and then…president. As parents, we’re confident that one of these days, Ava will be known as a Ms. Someone. Perhaps she really will become a Dr. Somebody. But what’s more impressive than becoming a Meg Whitman or a Sheryl Sandberg? Being one of the educators who taught them everything they know.