Charles Blow: Teachers deserve both greater respect and higher pay

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New York Times columnist Charles Blow has had up-close-and-personal relationships with teachers. His mother was an educator, and the person he credits with taking him from being an insecure, supposedly “slow” student to valedictorian of his high school class was his fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Thomas.

Charles Blow

Watch video of Charles Blow addressing AFT delegates.

Mrs. Thomas lit a fire under him. She could give him extra attention; she had the time to give him “because no one was telling her that she had to teach to a test or risk losing her job,” Blow said.

“Mrs. Thomas knew that part of what I needed was a smile and a hug,” he said, “someone who could just make the world slow down.”

Far too many of today’s teachers, Blow said, are being asked, unfairly, to do what Mrs. Thomas was able to do—provide “social services” to kids who live in poverty and are under a great deal of emotional stress. “Right now, we are punishing teachers for society’s problems, and that’s not right,” he asserted.

Blow said many teachers feel an intrinsic need to do everything they can for the children they serve. “Teachers did not become teachers to make a world of money. They became teachers to make a world of difference.”

Teachers deserve both greater respect and higher pay, said Blow, who pointed out that getting young people to enter the teaching profession is one of the major challenges facing our nation.

“Teachers have been so maligned in the national debate that it is hard to attract our best and brightest to the profession,” especially to high-poverty schools, he said. They see teachers “being overworked and underpaid, and they don’t want any part of it.” [video by Matthew Jones and Brett Sherman]

July 30, 2012