A profile of finance expert Suze Orman in a recent issue of The New York Times Magazine contained the following passage:
“She has been reluctant to work on school curricula on personal finance, because she says students can’t learn empowerment from people who aren’t empowered, and teachers, she says, are too underpaid ever to have any real self-worth. She told me: ‘When you are somebody scared to death of your own life, how can you teach kids to be powerful? It’s not something in a book — it ain’t going to happen that way.’”
I read about Ms. Orman’s comments in the article “Do Teachers Lack Power and Self-Worth” on teachermagazine.org. I posted the following comment on the article today:
Teachers in classrooms all over America right now are interacting with our children—interpreting history and current events for them, imparting knowledge to them, encouraging them to strive for success. Teachers are supporting students who are facing crises in their personal lives, encouraging students who lack self-esteem, and challenging students with latent potential. These children represent the future leaders of America, and teachers are fostering their intellectual, emotional and social development every day. To me, a person with this much influence over the next generation has an abundance of power.
My father taught in an inner-city junior high school for 32 years. But to call him a teacher would not adequately describe the role he played in his students’ lives. One story in particular stands out in my mind. One of my father’s students overcame severe personal hardships and excelled in school. My father encouraged him to apply to a prestigious and selective private high school. Although the student performed poorly on standardized state tests, my father convinced an admissions officer to interview the student. The admissions officer was impressed with the student, and the school accepted him on full scholarship. When the student was admitted to an Ivy League university four years later, my father packed the boy’s things into our car and drove him to the university. The student is now a successful and prominent attorney and continues to keep in touch with my father.
Suze Orman is right about one thing—teachers are underpaid. But I feel she’s wrong to link compensation to self-worth and empowerment. Anyone who can have such a profound impact on a child’s life and future is someone who knows pride, fulfillment—and power—beyond measure. Instead of disparaging teachers because they are willing to accept inadequate compensation in exchange for the major contribution they make to our society, we should honor teachers with respect and gratitude. (And pay them more too.)
Link to The New York Times article:
Link to the teachermagazine.org article: