Can you think of a teacher you loved or hated who changed your life? Most of us can because teachers matter.
Imagine a world where teaching is among the most highly paid occupations. What if becoming a teacher were so competitive that only the best and brightest made the cut? Visualize the possibility of a place where kids learn emotional intelligence as toddlers, and enjoy plenty of physical education and the arts, while still achieving world’s highest test scores? Imagine if this mythical land existed. Happily, it does exist. It is called Finland. I learned about Finland via a Fulbright specialist grant through which I visited the University of Vaasa in 2017. Recently, I also published an article in the Journal of Counseling Psychology with co-author Kyle Ehrhardt about how mentors help teachers live out their calling as educators.
I have been teaching for 24 years. My Christmas wish is that teachers in the U.S. get the same appreciation, compensation, training and value as the teachers in Finland. Or, in the words of Aretha Franklin, my wish for U.S. teachers is RESPECT. My son is 17. This means I have dutifully purchased at least 100 pounds of brownies (believe me —nobody wants to eat my cooking!) for school holidays and teacher appreciation days. However, I think we can do better. Perhaps a positive aspect to our pandemic is a greater appreciation for our teachers. Instead of demonstrating appreciation in brownies, we can show our respect every day by increasing teachers’ pay, development and status. As a society, we must embrace systemic changes in education and involve teachers in these changes through shared governance.
It breaks my heart when nearly every semester I find a business major who is a closeted, wanna-be teacher, but stifles the impulse to pursue their calling because “I don’t want to be poor.” Imagine, a world where everyone could do what they felt called to do? Let’s start with teachers.
Ellen Ensher is professor of management in the LMU College of Business Administration. She has written more than 50 articles and book chapters and is the coauthor, with Susan Murphy, of “Power Mentoring: How Successful Mentors and Proteges Get the Most Out of Their Relationships.”