‘I Want to Teach for the Money and the Fame’
aspiring teacher says it’s time to challenge stereotypes about educators
I want to be a teacher for the money and the fame. Or least that’s what I have been telling people when they ask me what I am going to school for. As an education major, I dread when people ask me what I’m studying because I constantly receive some variation of the same responses:
“Aw, that’s sweet.”
“I could never do that.”
“I do not have the patience for that.”
“They don’t make a lot of money.”
And my personal favorite: “Those who can’t do, teach.”
I used to just smile and nod, and think of polite ways to respond to these frustrating comments. Now, when I tell them “I want to teach for the money and the fame,” it catches people off guard, because I think we all understand that teacher salaries are lacking and teachers seldom receive enough recognition for their hard work.
When deciding I wanted to become a teacher, I definitely didn’t think “I want to teach because I want to be famous,” but I quickly realized that teachers are famous. While they don’t get the proper recognition in society, teachers impact their students daily and long after they leave their classrooms.
While teachers are not paid enough in salary, their compensation extends far beyond a paycheck. Teachers are paid in light bulb moments, in watching their impact influence students’ lives every day. When a student who has been struggling with a concept finally understands, a teacher gets to watch the wheels in the student’s head begin to turn. The teacher sees their eyes fill with a sense of accomplishment. Teachers see their hard work and planning pay off in a second’s notice, because they know every minute they have spent preparing was worth it. Witnessing this moment is worth more than any amount of money.
When deciding I wanted to become a teacher, I definitely didn’t think “I want to teach because I want to be famous,” but I quickly realized that teachers are famous. While they don’t get the proper recognition in society, teachers impact their students daily and long after they leave their classrooms. Think back to when you were in elementary school: You looked up to the teachers in the school. And if you saw a teacher at the grocery store or at a public event it was shocking, almost like seeing a celebrity. (“Mrs. Anderson shops at Target too?!”)
While teachers not may be famous in a traditional sense, their influence persists throughout their students’ lives. Every student has had at least one teacher (if not more than one) they can think back to and realize how much that teacher taught them. One lesson, one skill, or one mindless mnemonic device taught by a teacher can be used by a student for a lifetime without them even realizing it. This, to me, is better than fame and worth more than any paycheck.
So here is my challenge to those reading this: Think back to one “famous” teachers that sticks out in your memory – it could be an elementary school teacher or a professor from college. I challenge you to reach out to that teacher and just say “thank you.” Remind them of why they are famous in your mind, and explain the impact that they had on your education or life. And next time you meet an aspiring teacher, rethink your response and find a way to encourage them.
Teacher Appreciation Week is May 5-11. Arielle Sturm is an elementary education major and English language arts minor at UW-Eau Claire.
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