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What is a math teacher worth?

By Murray Bourne, 05 Dec 2006

There was an interesting opinion piece (by an anonymous author): Teaching should pay better, across the board in (which has since disappeared, unfortunately). The article describes how salaries for some mathematics teachers will be increased in Guilford County, North Carolina, in order to reduce teacher turnover and improve test results.

We're all for teachers making more money. But there's a problem with Guilford's plan: Almost guaranteed discord among the teachers themselves.

If math teachers in some Guilford schools see other math teachers making significantly more money than they do - and the difference could be more than $10,000 a year - discontent could arise.

Most societies do not value their teachers, preferring to pay obscenely high salaries to footballers, golf players and movie stars. Why is that, when teachers have a profound influence on the future of any society, especially as parental influence wanes? Why are we happy to pay more dollars to Hollywood, the advertising agencies and the Internet to influence our children?

There is a worldwide shortage of mathematics teachers. I agree with the opinion piece that paying some more than others will lead to unhappiness, but then again, the forces of supply and demand will always win out in the end. There have been a lot of capable mathematics teachers that have left the service for a host of reasons, a common one being the lack of support from the administration, the parents and the society generally.

So it boils down to deciding what do we want? Do we want an educated, creative and productive society, or are we happy with mediocrity? Are we willing to pay for better teachers, better training and better conditions?

I'm fed up with hearing things like "Anyone can teach" and "Teaching [ability] is a given". Nope, teaching is a highly skilled occupation and should be recognised as such. Anyone can play the violin, but few can play it well.

See the 3 Comments below.

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