Are Great Teachers As Rare As Platinum?

Van Gogh Gachet, Private Collection

Great teachers make great leaders. Ask a CEO or inventor or whomever, and somewhere along the way, a teacher believed in him (or her) when he, perhaps didn’t believe in himself. The coach who recognized a student’s athletic ability; the music teacher who heard that perfect pitch through the cacophony of noise; or, maybe that journalism teacher, as in my case (thank you, Mrs. Jeffries) who recognized a knack for writing.

CEO’s are taking a lot of much deserved heat for the salaries and bonuses they are awarding themselves. Salaries, as they are structured in the US, are in proportion to how rare a skill set a person possesses. For example if there are only a very few people who can do a particular job, a person should be paid more because it is rare. That is why platinum is so expensive compared to, say, gold. And, that’s why Brad Pitt is paid more than the guy standing next to the streetlamp in a scene. However, based upon market performances over the past decade, I would say, the market has ebbed and flowed pretty much on its own, following historical trends, regardless of who sat at the helm of any of the major corporations.

Also, having worked within, and as a consultant for Fortune 50’s, it is my opinion that the majority of the heavy lifting is done by people far below the C-level positions. The Chairmen of the various departments in most of the Fortune 50’s are so removed from what their companies actually do, that they are caught unprepared when the worst happens, and they actually are called upon to lead. This point brings me back to teachers.

Teachers, great ones, anyway are like platinum. We pay them like they are gold, or worse, silver. When I look back through my years of school, two teachers stand out as excellent – and that is with a private school education! If teachers were paid salaries commensurate with their quality of excellence (think Brad Pitt and the guy holding up the streetlamp), we could attract an entirely new level of quality educator.

I started to read this article, Building a Better Teacher, in the New York Times, my favorite newspaper, when I found my mind wondering to what really mattered most in the discussion of education. Much as with each new  generation a Lynn Dorman, Ph.D., J.D.guru is annointed who knows THE way to raise the perfect child, as so beautifully discussed by Lynn Dorman, PhD., J.D., in her book, You Can Totally Screw Up As A Mom And Still Raise Great Kid, there is no one size fits all answer. But, what Doug Lemov came up with makes perfect sense. Train teachers to be better teachers. When I read this, I actually had to jump back from my laptop so I didn’t spill my tea on it. How can we teach teachers to be better teachers if we don’t have better teachers to teach them? She sells seashells on the seashore….

There are great teachers in this country who should be paid platinum-level salaries. These educators, in turn, need to be teaching other teachers. Mr. Lemov points out that econimic incentives have not proved to be enough to raise the bar on who enters the teaching profession. That makes perfect sense. Until respect, improved working conditions, and all the trappings of a profession are associated with education, it will not attract great teachers.

Building a Better Teacher, NY Times

Over a Thanksgiving holiday weekend,  I witnessed my niece, (who has the makings of a great teacher, by the way) spend her limited free time in the evenings making decorations and educational pieces for her classroom at her own expense. She has been presented with the dilemma of trying to make it as a single woman on a teacher’s salary, or as a nanny making twice as much. She has an advanced degree in early childhood education, and still would be paid more as a nanny. I would equate this to our great masterpieces going into private collections. Yes, a few fortunate people get to see them, but how about the rest of us?  Fortunately for her students, she chose to stay in the schools, but how many would have chosen to take the money? She may have been just the great teacher some potential great leader needed.

How will America compete in the 21st Century global marketplace? The dollar is being challenged as the world currency. Have you tried to run a household or business without buying goods from China lately? Entrepreneurship and small business have always been the key to the US economic success. Innovation, new ideas, manufacturing, the list is endless, all start with someone teaching the Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell’s. Great leaders come from great teachers.

So, instead of boards of directors paying their CEO’s exorbitant salaries and bonuses, how about looking backwards at the teachers who guided you, inspired you, believed in you. Take out your checkbook, and pay it backwards. It’s about time great teachers were recognized for being platinum.

NOTE: Please forgive my second non- travel related article. I am in the process of developing a new (additional) site. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.

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4 comments for “Are Great Teachers As Rare As Platinum?

  1. Meryl Steinberg
    March 5, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    Don’t possess. Don’t complain. Don’t complain. –some instructions from a wise teacher. Great post. Teachers are unsung heros of society. We so need to show them appreciation.

  2. March 6, 2010 at 9:29 PM

    Thank you for the mention. Maybe I think and write well because I had some great teachers during my NYC public education days – and that education went straight through college. There were some bad ones as well but we learned from them in spite of their badness because they were over balanced by the good ones. As you so eloquently call them – the platinums – they outshone all others and helped us navigate the lessers.

  3. Miranda M
    March 6, 2010 at 10:33 PM

    I wish they were paid gold in California- it’s more like lead here :(
    As someone currently paying big bucks to get her degree and teaching credential (yes it’s worth it Azusa Pacific I love you!) thank you for pointing out something thats been on my mind a lot lately. It also (in California anyway) takes a lot of work to become a teacher and then you are stuck with loans you can’t pay off and a salary you can’t live on. But I’ll do it ayway because like you Mara I was inspired by some platinum teachers and I hope that I can give to somebody what they gave to me.

    • MaraBG
      March 6, 2010 at 11:00 PM

      Kudos, Miranda for taking on the most rewarding and under appreciated profession in this country. I’m not sure where I read or heard this, most likely the Talmud or my father – both great teachers – but if what we do impacts even one life, we have forever changed the world. That is what you will have the opportunity to do each day when you wake up. How exciting.

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