The Teacher Pay Crisis: What Can You Do?
You might say that teaching as a career is in my blood. My great great grandfather, Henry Wilson Kennon, moved his family to Indian Territory in the 1870’s to teach settlers’ children in the area. His daughter, Mattie Hanson Kennon, became a circuit teacher. She told many stories of her adventures including staying with the children’s families in very primitive conditions. She also reported that she had to dismount her horse to handle a tarantula with her crop to get the horse to take her to the school house one morning. Mattie was my grandmother’s mother. Grandma was Helen Thompson and I still have her lifetime teaching certificate. Both my father and mother have taught, and my sister Elizabeth Garrett always considered her role as a faculty member more important than her career as a university administrator. I served as a college professor for over twenty five years.
Perhaps the challenges to today’s teachers are different than those faced by Mattie Kennon, but I would propose that they are just as dire. Most agree that the state’s commitment to education funding must improve, but education always comes up short in the funding structure. While this battle continues, there is something immediate we can all do for our state’s teachers.
- Support your favorite public school foundation. These groups make a powerful impact on classrooms.
- Contribute or purchase school supplies for children. Some of my favorite memories are of buying school supplies with my children. Each year, we would get the list at the store, and we loved getting new shiny supplies for the first day. Imagine how disappointing it is for a child who is already behind when they arrive the first day without supplies. Take a care package to the school of these items with a label for the classroom you have chosen.
- Buy a gift card for a teacher. Teachers spend a great deal of their own money making sure that the children in their classroom have enriching experiences. A gift card is a tax free bonus for them. I know that they prefer gift cards to another “Greatest Teacher” mug, and it would be great to start the year with encouragement from their community.
- Volunteer at a local school. Many children need one on one help with reading, math and just managing school challenges. The reward to you will be as great as it is to the child you help.
Finally, drop a note to a teacher you know to tell her/him how much impact they had on you or your children’s education. We all remember how much impact they had on our lives and it is priceless for a teacher to learn that they played a role in their student’s lives. After all, we know they have not stayed in the profession for the money.
Laura, thank you for sharing these options so people know how to help. We appreciate your support of all public education, and the fact that you already do support the Putnam City Schools Foundation.
Laura, your suggestions are well though-out and prescient. However, the real issue is to find a way to increase their salaries, to reward excellence, to provide the leadership tools to maintain decorum in the classroom, to align teachers and parents in efforts to educate their students. Certainly, the issue of bloated school district administration and associated pay divergence should be addressed by the Governor and Lesislature. Certainly, parents must be able to choose the best school for their child allowing the funding to follow the child. It’s a big subject and required a great deal of attention if Oklahoma is to excell as a State.
Laura, I also thank you. We need this concern and opportunity presented often to effect change. I only add that a critical component is to ensure that adequate funding for schools is paramount– that we should express our priorities to our legislators. Further, we have too many administrators and not enough teaching staff. Additionally, we need to support parents engaging in children’s education–their example and voice is essential to children. I do not believe parents truly know how important they are in children’s ability to thrive.