There really should be a code of ethics for how people treat teachers in our culture.
Teaching is a calling, first and foremost. For all practical purposes, one teaches because that is what one was born to do – and nothing that happens in one’s life alters that calling because it is ingrained in who one essentially is. Even when one is not in an official teaching position, there is still an overriding sense of mission -- to teach others through whatever venues are available, including writing and blogging. It is a mission that deserves to be respected. When your life’s work is that of teaching, it is very difficult to do anything else – because, again, it is a calling of the highest order and composes the fiber of one’s very being.
Being a teacher, especially in higher education these days, means that one makes considerable financial sacrifices – the sacrifice of delaying income while in graduate school and then the sacrifice of low salaries once employed. Those financial sacrifices should be respected and honored, as well.
Increasingly, there are many teachers in higher education who opt not to teach for reasons of poor pay and institutional politics. Call it a boycott, if you will. In fact, many of the best teachers – who care the most about students – end-up dropping out of teaching for these very reasons – because too often the university system rewards those who look out for themselves (and their own research agendas) rather than those who care about others and are dedicated to the service of students. This is a pervasive problem within higher ed today. Indeed, years of putting others’ needs ahead of one’s own needs can lead to burn-out and financial drain – even break downs -- for many of the best teachers. However, that does not mean that those teachers who opt out deserve any less respect.
Anyone who takes teaching seriously knows that in being a teacher, you are also serving as an advocate for students. The best teachers are advocates – and they can serve as advocates in all sorts of capacities outside of education, as well. In recent years, my main work has been that of an advocate – because as a dedicated teacher, that is what comes most naturally. The call to service for many teachers extends far beyond university walls.