There are a few videos I have seen making the rounds the past couple months. Perhaps you’ve seen them, too:
https://www.facebook.com/attn/videos/1479756855393102/ (if Facebook is blocked for you, use this link: https://www.attn.com/stories/19281/what-if-we-treated-teachers-way-we-treat-professional-athletes)
They all center around the same idea: teachers are superstars, and wouldn’t it be interesting if they were treated the same way we treat our other “superstars” — in this case, professional athletes?
These are generally positive videos, perhaps making one think about how undervalued teachers are, or perhaps how overvalued professional athletes are. Typically, the response is one of support for teachers.
I have a less popular opinion: I don’t like them. Not at all.
It’s not because it’d be untenable, barring massive inflation, for our society to pay teachers multi-million dollar salaries. It’s not because I don’t find them humorous or thought-provoking.
Actually, I don’t like them because I have, perhaps, an even less popular opinion: teachers are not superstars.
*dives under his desk to avoid the stones being thrown*
Still here? Haven’t set your device on fire in rage? Okay, cool. Thanks.
Let’s think about “superstars” for a second. Who comes to mind? For me, I think of a few groups:
- Movie/TV stars
If we limit it to those who receive incomes in the millions, that group becomes a select few musicians, a select few authors, and a decent group of athletes and movie/TV stars. Picture someone who fits that bill of a multi-million dollar-earning superstar. Have one? Here’s mine:
Let’s think about what Serena Williams does, as a superstar:
- Performs regularly, on the court, in front of thousands
- Is an icon for a community to look to for hope
- Is a role model for youth around the world
You know what? Those last two? I can totally get down with using those for teachers. But let’s think about what she doesn’t do, as a superstar:
- Connect with each of her fans individually and helps them find value in themselves
- Tirelessly work to support a community that tends to criticize her every move
- Spend hours each day working to improve the lives of others
- Do some of the most important work in the world regardless of pay, treatment, or status
However, each of those things are integral aspects of teaching. We know that relationships and community are crucial to teaching that is going to reach all students. For that to happen, our students have to be our partners in learning, not our fans.
We know that teachers work until they are drop-dead tired to make their communities better, safer places. And yet they are still yelled at by the masses, told what they need instead of asked what they need (check out #ArmMeWith when you get a chance). But teachers do this work anyway.
We know that teachers, every single day, work to make things better for their students. And sometimes, these students are thankful. Often, these students display no emotional response to this work. Sometimes, in the worst cases, these students kill them. But teachers do this work anyway.
Show me a superstar who does this. Show me a superstar who would give up the fans, the fame, glory, money, and accolades to become someone constantly questioned and blamed, but would continue to do the work day in and day out for the better part of their lives. All while knowing they could die just by showing up to work that day. In fact, on some level, that they are expected to die if it comes down to them or those in their care.
So when I see suggestions that we fawn over teachers as if they are superstars, I totally understand. They do some of the most important work in the world. They are worth fawning over. But not just one or two teachers who are promoted to “rockstar” status. Not just a few whom we can shower with millions of dollars. Not just the ones that some outside group decides are worthy of the title “superstar.”
Every single teacher. Every one. Every teacher does amazing work and should be celebrated. That’s not fan culture. That’s not rockstar culture. That’s not superstar culture.
Because teachers are not superstars. They’re something more.