When the professor questioned his class’s career choice, the students assured him that they were indeed going to be teachers.
“Are you sure?” he said. “So no one in here is going to be a police officer?”
“We’re totally sure,” they said. “No one in here wants to be a police officer for a living.”
“You should remember that when you’re in your classroom,” he said. “You’re there to teach students. That’s your job–to get them to learn, to inspire them. You’re there to teach. Not to micromanage or control their behavior or be really nit-picky over things that don’t really have anything to do with what’s going on in your classroom.”
That college memory stuck with Archer City High School Teacher Mika Morgan. Since then, she has tried to live out that advice in her career.
“You have to remember that the relationship with the student is the most important thing,” Morgan said. “You don’t want to damage the relationship because you were upset over something that was actually kind of minor.”
Defining the qualities of a good teacher leaves most judgement to the observer, but with President Donald Trump’s proposal of replacing the current tenure system, which “rewards bad teachers and punishes good ones,” with merit pay “so that great teachers are rewarded” may cause school administrators to outline definite characteristics.
Defining those characteristics, however, could be the greatest obstacle on the path to merit pay.
“I like the idea of trying to let there be some sort of incentive because there definitely are teachers that go above and beyond and pour in a lot of extra time,” Morgan said, “and there are teachers who kind of do the bare minimum because it doesn’t really impact their performance either way.”
How to differentiate between who is a good teacher and who isn’t, Morgan said, is not black and white.
“You can’t tie it to test scores or anything like that because you’re really punishing the teachers who work with the higher risk children,” she said. “You don’t want to do that. You need the best teachers you can get working with the lower kids. Probably, it would need to be based on some kind of growth metric. . . maybe just for your year.”
Without a ladder to climb or much prestige connected to the position, those who pursue teaching careers fall victim to the “just a teacher” outlook described by Jaime Madison, an Early Childhood Education Major at Armstrong State University, on her blog.
“Little kids grow up thinking the brightest kids want to do things like be a doctor or a lawyer or something where you think you’re going to have a good job, and there’s some prestige associated with that title,” Morgan said. “I don’t think that teaching necessarily has that. But, on the flip coin of that, do you really want people going into the field if they’re not really in love with the subject or the idea of teaching kids?”
Madison Lucido, a freshman Education Major at Texas Tech University, said that she really connected with Jaime Madison’s post.
“With all the classes I’ve gone through just this semester, it’s really opened my eyes to why [teachers] are important,” she said. “They truly have an impact on students’ lives, whether they’re elementary, high school or even college students like me.”
In her career, Lucido said she wants to play a role in helping students discover who they are and what they can do in the world.
“I really just want them to figure out themselves and develop who they want to be when they grow up,” she said. “[I want them to] know they’re important and what they learn does matter.”
The value of a teacher lies not in their students test scores and grades, but in the mark they leave on their students’ lives.
“The main thing is having a good repor with your students,” Morgan said. “You have to be able to motivate kids to get them invested in what you’re trying to learn. Knowledge of what you’re teaching is important, but to me, the most important thing is being able to connect with your students.”