One of the problems involved in attracting competent people into education may be that it is the only profession which does not have “perks”. A perquisite, according to the dictionary, is a privilege or profit incidental to regular wages or salary.
Companies pay for their employees to take courses to upgrade their skills. Many universities give sabbatical leaves of a year every seven years. Many companies routinely give cash bonuses, usually at Christmas and Easter time. These extras are not considered part of a person’s salary so the discrepancy between teachers’ salaries and other professionals may be greater than originally thought.
Bright young people are beginning to be attracted to the teaching profession in spite of the salary discrepancies. The problem is they will not stay because teaching is essentially a dead-end job. The only avenue for advancement is administration.
The California Commission on the Teaching Profession solved this problem in a report entitled: “Who Will Teach Our Children?”. This report gave recommendations on three topics: Restructuring the teaching career and establishing professional standards, redesigning the school as a more productive workplace for teachers and students, and recruiting capable men and women into teaching. One of the most interesting parts of the report was the section entitled “The Story of a Career”. In this part, the committee attempted to show how their recommendations would change the teacher of the future.
In this scenario, the teacher was paid by a fellowship program to pursue her training in chemistry. The program offered her one year of college tuition for each year of commitment to teach. She also received pay for a work-study program in which she worked as a tutor and aide in science classes in high school while attending college. As a prospective teacher, she was paid for a summer of intensive course work, a year-long residency with supervision and a second summer of course work. At the end of this time, she took and passed competency tests to become a teacher.
She received tenure after three years and paid off her fellowship. After three years of teaching she was ready to pursue graduate work. She was able to do so because her school functioned on a quarter system and offered teachers the possibility of working on ten, eleven or twelve month contracts.
She passed a rigorous examination and became board certified. This meant a raise in salary. After several years, she received training as a peer evaluator and spent a year doing this. The next year, she returned to the classroom. She applied for the sabbatical program which allowed her to take courses for state certification as a mentor teacher and to work part-time at the research facility of a local corporation. After certification, she received a raise in salary and she divided her time between her own classes and the classrooms of residents and other teachers she was helping.
She was now an esteemed educator. She served as an adjunct professor at the university, and was the recipient of professional awards. Her income, like that of other senior mentor teachers, equaled that of the school administrators. She took time off for a year to work on school-based staff development and then returned to the classroom. After twenty-five years in teaching, she could negotiate her duties each year. The district sought to use her expertise where it was most needed. She retired at 60, but continued to consult part time with the district and to serve on state-level committees.
This “Story of a Career” ended by the teacher feeling proud of her accomplishments and her life time of service. She choose a profession that offered her excitement, variety, challenge, growth in competence, income, and esteem of the community, her colleagues, and her students. Not many professions can offer those perks.