Nearly everyone has a favorite teacher. I can distinctly remember two of mine, Ms. Paque and Ms. Collins. They were great educators, spinning torrents of exciting material out for their students to attempt to catch. They were pleasant and kind, but demanded extraordinary effort. At the time, it seemed a bit overwhelming, and I remember distinct moments when I was ready to quit. Of course, they were experts in encouragement as well.
The reason I reflect so fondly upon these two women is because of the opportunities that they afforded me. Were it not for them, I most certainly would not have been able to handle the even greater pressures of college, especially at a private institution like TCU. They were, and still are, pillars of excellence, examples of those who strive to do their jobs to the greatest of their abilities.
In fact, exemplars of such noble aspirations exist in nearly all facets of societies. There were the lauded Deco Deli ladies of old (I apologize to the younger students who can’t appreciate this reference), and there is Lieu, the admired greeter and ID-swiper who works in the BLUU and has taken the initiative to attempt to recognize everyone who enters her domain. People like them exist in banks, retail stores and even in areas where public interaction is not readily present, and they tend to have the greatest impact on us. Their friendliness, helpfulness or determination can serve as inspiration and a source of joy.
Joe Carbone, former trainer for the Los Angeles Lakers, has recently joined this small coalition of harbingers of success. In a move that many would consider ludicrous, he quit his job with the team and moved to New York to be a physical education teacher in a charter school known as The Equity Project. According to Sports Illustrated, it is located in a “predominantly Hispanic area…serving a low-income population.”
Though he will be earning more than $100,000 in his new position, his pay will only be a fraction of what it was before. The school will be attempting to reach out to the community through the combination of teachers who endured rigorous evaluations in order to gain their positions.
Carbone is simply an example. The other teachers were successful in their fields, and these semi-celebrities are now utilizing their skills in the most basic of arenas, a public elementary school.
But is this not how it should be? The best and brightest in today’s society strive for positions as lawyers and financiers and will be competing against other elites in a level of capitalism that many of us cannot even fathom. When comparing education levels in the United States to those of other rising powers, such as our “loathed enemy,” China, it is important to consider the consequences.
The future rests on the shoulders of rising generations. It seems to me that the simplest way to guarantee a sound future would be to glamorize teaching positions in the manner they deserve. There are already programs that do this – AmeriCorps and Teach for America – but they affect only a small percentage and only select areas. However, their archetypes make them extremely successful. They offer incentives of graduate school partnerships and future success in the business world or other professional fields. While many dream of holding positions with well-known firms and making their mark while accruing a small fortune, these ambitions need not be forgotten.
Education reform has unfortunately been placed near the rear of the agenda and is often forgotten. This is a shame because it is the most integral part of every citizen’s life. Were it not for our educations, we would not even be able to debate such issues.
If someone wishes to devote his or her life to the betterment of students, that person should be afforded the opportunity. With salary levels as they are, it is not a possibility to pursue this option and, say, raise a family. Income and benefits should be raised for teachers so that these positions can once again become desirable.
Before financial markets even existed, the schoolteacher was revered as one of the most knowledgeable members of a township.
Therefore, perhaps so many bailout dollars would be better used in this manner than as bonuses to financial tycoons. Whether or not this happens soon, we should all keep in mind the example of Carbone. I know that I am thankful for the people who already did so.
Matt Boaz is senior political science major from Edmond, Okla.