Teach English in GuAndi Zhen - Chifeng Shi

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In 2018, about 485,200 US teachers went on strike or were involved in work stoppages calling for fair wages, better public benefits, and more government funds going towards public education (Dam 2019). The response was divided. On the one hand, people who valued education and the importance of the teacher in a student’s life were supportive. On the other hand, people who also valued education were outraged that teachers who have a duty to their students were disrupting the learning process by selfishly asking for more. This duality in responses to such strikes accents the complicated role that teachers have in the US. A teacher in the US is a role model and an educator but also a person in need of a livable wage. Though the perception of teachers in the US is largely positive, and the responsibility is clearly very great, the reward of such a career is at times much less gratifying. The role of the teacher is not only that of an educator, but also that of a role model, a caretaker, and a public servant. The teacher’s role as an educator is perhaps the most obvious. In the US, it is mandatory for children to be enrolled into public school up until a certain age in their teens depending on the state. The average days that students spend in school is 180 per year. This is a significant amount of time that teachers have with students. Every day they dedicate themselves to teaching material that school districts require as well as material that they feel their students would benefit from learning. They teach core materials like Mathematics, Reading Comprehension, Writing, and the Sciences and depending on the school, they will also teach life and technical skills like cooking, woodwork, coding, etc. The subjects are endless and their job is to impart knowledge on students of so many different backgrounds and levels of learning and comprehension in a way that is engaging and interesting. However, the skills they teach go beyond what can be measured and graded. Teachers also become role models for students. They are at most times students’ first exposure to professionalism in the workplace. Yes, there do exist “fun” teachers that seem more like one’s friend than an authority figure but at the end of the day, that power difference exists and is felt by all students. Teachers have a level of authority because they are expected to be much more knowledgeable than the students sitting in their classrooms. Because they are looked up to as an authority figure, they also have the responsibility to set a good example. They can’t be late and expect their students to hand in assignments on time. They can’t look sloppy and expect their students to come to class dressed appropriately, and they can’t be rude and expect their students to be on their best behavior. The way they carry themselves, the time they take to answer their students’ questions respectfully, and the passion they bring to the work they do instill lessons in their students that go beyond the textbooks. Work ethic, respect, curiosity and a love of learning are values taught by teachers who are also good role models. Every so often on the news, a story is featured about a teacher who went above and beyond their typical role to help one or more of their students. They organized a clothing drive for a low-income student or they helped to plan a homecoming for a family member of a student in the military. We often see teachers take the role of a caretaker as they do in loco parentis or in place of the parents. There is no denying that some teacher-student relationships become very close and even mimic parent-child relationships. This is oftentimes because of the amount of time the two parties spend with each other and because of the level of care teachers take with their students. For about eight hours a day, 180 days a year, students interact with their teachers almost daily. Teachers are the responsible adults, the caretakers of students in their classrooms. If a student gets sick, a teacher is responsible to making sure they get sent to the nurse’s office. If a teacher notices signs that the student may be in a domestic violence situation, it is their duty to report it to the designated authorities. Teachers not only have to take care of their students’ learning progress but also their mental and physical well-being, at least while they’re in the classroom. Lastly, teachers are also public servants and members of the working class who deserve a living wage. As public servants, teacher are meant to have secure jobs with ample public benefits. The reality however is not always very rewarding. Over the past two years, teachers across the US have been striking not only for better wages and benefits for themselves, but also for better allocation of government funds into public education which would in turn benefit their students. Because of their creative and organized campaigns, teachers across the country have been able to win major concessions not just for their own livelihoods, but also for those of their students. Though a teacher’s role in the eyes of their students’ and in the eyes of society can often be contrasting, many will not argue that their role is an important one. Most people have anecdotes about teachers who have made a lasting impact in their lives and that is precisely because a teacher’s role is so complex. Though teachers’ roles are more often defined as educators, it does well to remember that they are much more than that. They are role models and caretakers for their students and public servants who deserve a living wage as well. Works Cited Dam, Andrew Van. “Teacher Strikes Made 2018 the Biggest Year for Worker Protest in a Generation.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 14 Feb. 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2019/02/14/with-teachers-lead-more-workers-went-strike-than-any-year-since/.