I visited Siberia through a U.S. Department of State program in 2006. The day I arrived at my host school, I realized how entirely differently the teaching profession was perceived in that culture. Americans have none of the respect which punctuated every interaction with educators in the Russian schools. Teachers are honored, wield an enormous amount of influence, and are even offered inducements. Those teachers get a lot more than apples, let me tell you. I had a very bright professor once who constantly kept coming back to the anti-intellectual aspect of American life. Maybe it's a consequence of that, that the oppressed populace is rife for revolt against some of the only working-class Americans left with any sort of employee benefits.
What scares me the most? I can't escape this anxiety on the news or online, but I hear precious little about it in my building. Only one of my assistant principals seems aware of all of this. She is one of the only professional educators in our school. A proud and active members of her professional organizations, she attends workshops voluntarily and at her own expense and reads journals, listservs, and both trade and practitioner-oriented books.
Many of the rest on our faculty are craftsmen. Some are very fine teachers, but on the whole, they don't want to devote too much time to their occupation. They watch American Idol instead of school board meetings in the evenings. I still don't think they work part-time or are overpaid, as some of the critics assert, but the conversations about union bashing masked as school reform masked as budgetary crises somehow haven't reached them, and I'm jealous.
Oh, odds are I'll be back at school next year, and for the foreseeable future after that. But this is the time of the year when many things seem possible. My administrators are getting older and will retire soon. My knee-jerk reaction is that I don't want to work for anyone else. I've been told by the state of Alabama I lack the requisite credentials to be certified as a school administrator, which minimizes my professional opportunities.
That jump is looking more attractive by the moment...