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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Please Don’t Make a Face: Changing How We View the Teaching Profession

When teaching class recently, the topic of how people respond to finding out that my students are studying to become elementary school teachers came up. Almost all of these student teachers had stories. Often, when they told someone they were becoming a teacher, the person made a face. In one case, a gentleman told the aspiring teacher, “you can do better.”

Ouch.

Can do better than serving young people for a living? Helping them have a better future? Spending years of their life preparing others to be successful and educated? Not sure how much better a person can do.

I think one of my students hit it on the head when she said, “the problem is people equate success simply with making lots of money. We are choosing a profession for other reasons.”

Society must know that success can be measured in many ways, not only in economic terms. While I wish teachers were paid more, the reality is my students know what the job pays—and they still do it! You can look at that as unwise or as noble.

Not too long ago, when I worked as an elementary teacher, I remember a family friend asking me about my profession. When she learned I was a teacher, she point-blank asked “why would you want to do that?”

I thought about how her son, in college, wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for teachers like me. But I didn’t say anything (since then, I thought of better responses, including carrying with me letters that students wrote about life-changing experiences they had in my classroom).

We have a lot of work to do when it comes to changing the culture of how we perceive the field of teaching. Next time you learn someone is going to college to become a teacher, maybe ask:

What makes you have a passion for teaching children?

What or who influenced you to become a teacher?

What grade(s) do you feel best suited to teach?

What’s your philosophy of teaching?

Much more inspiring questions.

Also, remember not to make a face.