Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Is Your Legacy?:A Story for Those Who Think Merit Pay Will Motivate Teachers

I have two cousins who grew up with me in Brooklyn, were neighborhood ball players and attended local public schools. They went into business and became very successful, probably making 3 to 4 times my salary ( and I am paid decently). They are both having serious health problems, and at one of our dinners last year, they got very serious and asked me, "What is your legacy?" I said, without a moments hesitation, "the accomplishments of the hundreds of students I have worked with whom I am still in touch with. They validate what I have tried to do in my life." A sad look came over their face, and they said, they" wished they had a legacy like that." Their legacy was " the money they are leaving to their children and grandchildren." The conversation hit home to me why I chose teaching as a profession. Teaching not only has different rewards than business, it has, in its best manifestations, an entirely different atmosphere. My cousins, who worked for large companies, made a lot of money, but they worked in a climate of fear because they could be fired at any time, either because their company had been bought by a larger global corporation( which happened to one of my cousins) or because a new management team had come in. In contrast, I was never going to become rich on my job, but I had the ability to speak freely, security against arbitrary changes in management, and the chance to change lives. I would not trade that experience for the opportunity to double my salary, or even make 10 million dollars a year, if I lost the freedom, autonomy, and ability to build lifetime relationships with students that my job has given me. It is those "soft" attributes that motivate those who love teaching, not the prospect of financial rewards

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