In the current conversations around defunding the police, I was at first skeptical as it sounded like a bold rally cry more than an actual possibility. But the more I consider the funding deficit in education and other areas of community development, forgone in favor of police funding, the more I think twice. Shouldn’t we prioritize education over supplying tear gas and riot gear to law enforcement? It seems to me the greatest preventative care in any society is to provide a good education and life-sustaining services (healthcare, housing, food) to those who cannot provide it for themselves. Education is state-sanctioned, but not state-prioritized. This needs to change, and reallocating police funds to education is a big step that can be the preventive care our nation needs.
Teachers are heroes. Most people grew up in public school, and if you didn't I know you had someone in your life teach you something at some point, whether that be at private school, Sunday school, a homeschooled co-op, or even your babysitter. And anyone who has been in the position to teach in any fashion knows that it is a challenge, and even more than that, that most people certainly aren't up for it.
In today's developing society, teachers are getting more respect, and I am so thankful for this. Monetarily, teaching is a viable career and in a "good" district one can certainly make a living off of their salary (… if it’s combined with their partners’.) Unfortunately, in many school districts that isn't even the case, but hopefully that will change.
This deserves to change because, as a college student, I can vouch for the quality of training we receive. Teachers have to graduate with a 3.25 GPA, almost a full point higher than other students need to graduate. We conduct three observances of classrooms, and an entire school year in most cases of student teaching, and we all specialize in Special Education as a part of our major, regardless of level or subject. After graduation, the training doesn't stop. Those "random days off" public students enjoy are teacher in-service days, where teachers essentially go to school to maintain their training, and stay certified.
Also, increasingly, to continue teaching within the same district for most schools, teachers need to obtain a master's (MA) within five years of employment. That means that before I'm 30 I'll need to have my master's, and so will everyone. This isn't typically paid for by the district, either, so the dedication of a teacher to their students comes out of their own pocket; something that isn't news to any teachers, but I'm sure many students and parents haven't thought about how much their teachers spent on them before.
In national averages, cited here at Chron Work Guides and seen at the US Department of Justice for specifics on individual training programs, cops receive 18-30 weeks of training. Within 5 months, most cops are on the street.
Most cops have no extenuating degrees, like a bachelors or associates, or higher. This is insufficient for the work they are asked to do. They are asked to be social workers, arriving to scenes where a special needs child is having a panic attack, or to deescalate domestic violence, with no empathetic training. It is not a job in which qualifications meet expectations, or even that expectations are clear when you begin. This is not always the fault of the officers if they are put in this position unprepared. This brings in a question bigger than their training deficit. Why are cops the only people we can call? Where can this funding be put elsewhere to instate better emergency measures? Someone not armed, someone with social work training and who will not intimidate a special needs child, or escalate a situation with their persona? Why can’t we dial 9113, for example, an extension that calls a non-armed social worker, ambulance, or emergency team?
Police are a year-round job, sure. So here is my rebuttal to the favorite argument, "teaching gets you free summers!” We work overtime every day, and most weekends to grade and plan lessons, the districts don't incorporate more than 1 hour a day for this out-of-class work. Parent teacher conferences and phone calls, IEP meetings for special education students, shopping for materials (paid out of our own pocket) and preparing lessons ahead of time are more ways I know I’ve worked overtime. Beyond that, WE ARE ONLY PAID 10 MONTHS OF THE YEAR, it’s not like we’re paid for time we’re not working. Add to that our need to pay for our own bachelors AND masters degrees, when cops go through their own training schools in less time for free, our services are highly valued.
The most frustrating part of the lack of respect for teachers is that someone in a corporate job, or who runs their own business, or who works in retail or food service think that teaching is something you should do for fun, because their jobs aren't. But that's not true. Teaching is rewarding, but it is a challenge. It is inspiring, but it is also frustrating. And not very many professions warrant less appreciation than teaching does. Policing is certainly one of them, but this comes from extenuating bad reputations. Even a “harmless” encounter with police is nerve-wracking for most people; an armed man assessing you at a traffic stop is very intimidating even when you drive away safely.
How does this compare to teaching? We are not trained to deescalate violent situations, and yet we do it every day with no injury to students.
Teachers in most cases do not warrant the abuse thrown at us, by students or parents or strangers at the market. Cops have extreme power in our society, and are well-compensated for it, and are prone to abuse it. A main reason given is usually that they are not properly trained. See the above paragraph; obviously, that needs to change. But remember this: teachers have no power, limited compensation, and are expected to go above and beyond in our roles as caregivers, therapists, social workers, and emotional support to students.
I have been hit by students on 3 occasions, and broken up/prevented countless fights. In response, never once have I:
1) hit back
2) used force or any physical contact at all to detain a student
3) used verbal assaults on a student or parent.
In one case I was asked to prosecute, as it was a student’s 3rd offense, and I did not. Not because they were sorry in any way, but because I didn’t want them to go through a justice system where they could be faced with police that wouldn’t give them compassion. I was in a place to use compassion, and I always choose to. Why cops, in this same situation, need to shoot someone, choke them, or even say vile words to them is beyond me. It is their definitive training, the only training police really receive outside of weaponry, and they often escalate situations. It is unacceptable.
Teachers provide kids and young adults with the tools and foundations they need to survive in the world. The one thing everyone needs to be saying to teachers is "thank you." It is a heavy job that teachers willingly and lovingly engage in, but we need to recognize that just because it is something they are passionate about, doesn't mean they should be discounted for it. And anyway, as a parent or a student, wouldn't you rather have a passionate teacher? Teachers can make or break a student's life, and I know that you would prefer the former. Teachers are role models, inspirations, and even borderline parental figures for every student they come in contact with, and when they do their job well, they deserve a parade. I think we should add something to this list.
People need to stop asking future teachers questions like, "But you're so smart, why would you teach?" or, "everybody wants to teach these days"? Someone who really, truly wants to be a teacher, and deserves the opportunity to touch young lives, will be the smartest people in our society, and the most passionate about their subjects. Many people will get an education degree, and some of them will be employed by school districts, but not too many will actually teach. Aspiring teachers, keep your hearts, eyes, and ears open at all times and know that every ounce of empathy you gain will make you a better teacher for your future students. Now is a big time to listen and engage, being on the right side of history is the right step in being a good teacher.
To teach is to inspire, and there aren't many people with the capacity and skill set that this requires. Teaching is a calling, a vital (if not the most important) lifeline in the support of society’s healthy progression. Funding for education should come before anything else, and when looking at defunding the police, remember teachers alongside healthcare workers and social care as a place that funding needs to be reallocated.