Teaching is one of the most honorable professions a person can choose. Despite being an honorable profession, society does not always treat it as such. Educators work incredible hours, doing thankless tasks that other professionals do not have to do. Many people have jobs with specific skills and also have a lack of acknowledgement and a shortage of appreciation. But educators may just win the prize for wearing a multitude of hats.
Teaching is not an eight-hour-a-day, five-day-a-week job. There are many duties that educators tackle that do not require pedagogical skills or experience in the classroom, but are necessary in the profession. Teachers need a strong immune system to protect them from exposure to every possible illness in a classroom. Not only that, teachers must comfort and guide those students facing adverse childhood experiences. Teachers spend their evenings and weekends making lesson plans, grading papers and other extracurricular activities. Teachers often spend their own money on classroom supplies, decorations, and food for their students.
Every educator has to possess the motivation to see that their students succeed, along with a shared vision that all children are equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully embark upon their chosen path in life. Educators must also display the highest moral character. They must ensure to take the steps necessary to keep the profession honorable. In a recent editorial, State Board of Education member Allison Chancey, a practicing teacher wrote, “a teacher’s integrity both inside and outside the classroom is paramount. First, because the safety of students entrusted to our care is our utmost priority. Second, because we know the decisions we make set a model for our students. We knew this when we entered the profession, and so we submit to a high code of ethics for the protection of our students.”
There is currently legislation pending in the Tennessee General Assembly, made necessary because of a 2017 grade-changing scandal at Trezevant High, and a 2018 Comptrollers Report on Educator Sexual Misconduct. While it is important that we make sure all educators are treated fairly, society has a low tolerance for pedophiles and cheaters. The fact that it is such a rare occurrence in our profession is a testament to the 99.9% of those dedicated educators who are breaking their backs to give young people the best education possible. Bad behavior and scandals puts all the good work educators do at risk.
In order to advance the ideals and standards of the teaching profession, we must not be afraid to make Tennessee a better place for teachers to teach and students to learn. This means we must embrace the highest ethical standards for those who educate children and keep those who dishonor the profession out of our classrooms. Dr. Jack London wrote: “Character is a complex aggregate of mental and ethical traits that form the true nature of a person.” We must challenge not only ourselves, but also those around us, to take on the challenge to raise the bar on our expectations of good character, integrity and ethical behavior. Because teaching is such an honorable profession, teaching is NOT for everyone.
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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Professional Educators of Tennessee is a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.