When a bright, eager, socially conscious 21 year old tells his family and friends he wants to go into teaching, he most often gets this retort: “Damn…that is a total waste of the good money your parents spent on sending you to college and a squandering of your talents and skills.”
How sad. When I told my parents I wanted to be a teacher in 1973, they were proud of my career choice. In the last 35 years the stature of teaching as a profession has been tragically downgraded. We can change this as a community—and we must.
If we are to attract more and better candidates to the teaching profession we must change the response to “Wow, that is fantastic that you want to dedicate yourself to sharing your skills and intellect with the youth of Santa Clara County. Not only that, but I understand that if you do exemplary work you can now make over $130,000 in salary and performance pay in the new pay system if you give up tenure rights. I am so proud of you.”
The prescription for the health of the Silicon Valley public school system must begin with increasing the pay for those teachers who do it the best, and work incredibly long hours to see that each one of their students succeed (not just on STAR scores) and failure is never an option. And concomitantly, we must develop a sophisticated multi-media one-year public relations campaign where we have people from all walks of life and ages (including current students) tell their stories of the teachers that made a difference in their lives. The Santa Clara County Office of Education quite possibly could become one of the partners in funding this critical campaign
If we significantly raise the compensation for the best (I understand this is a hot topic for the NCLB reauthorization) and promote the raising of the stature of teachers Silicon Valley will be able to increase the pool of talented young adults who enter the teaching profession…a very laudable goal as I see it. We most likely will also need to change the tenure laws as currently written, otherwise public education in the next 25 years might look a lot like the American auto industry today.
If you have a story about a teacher that made a difference in your life in extraordinary ways please share it here.
Joseph Di Salvo is a trustee on the board of the Santa Clara County Office of Education, and adjunct professor at both Santa Clara University and National University’s Graduate Schools of Education. During a 33-year public school career, he served as a teacher, principal, union president, and executive administrator.