Last week, I wrote about the dismissive attitude toward teaching Kindergarten on How I Met Your Mother, and I wanted to offer one short clarification based on a personal conversation I had.
In that piece I wrote two things that were meant to make the same argument but may sound like different arguments.
First, I wrote that "Virtually all the reform efforts of the past few years have focused on teacher quality because everybody agrees it's so important; but nobody's willing to actually treat teachers like they're important."
I then concluded by arguing that we couldn't possibly get the school system we want "if quitting is the only way for teachers to reach their potential".
Upon reading the piece, a friend contacted me to point out that he didn't think bad teachers deserved respect, which led to a discussion differentiating respecting teachers from respecting teaching.
The former would mean that people who are currently teaching aren't receiving enough respect from society. While I think this is true in many cases (there are obviously some who don't do much to earn our respect -- though they should still be respected as human beings), it was not the intent of my last piece to argue that being nicer to current teachers would solve our problems (though it wouldn't hurt).
Rather, my intent was to focus on the latter construct -- respect for the act of teaching itself. The largest policy problem I saw evidenced in the dialogue of the show was that multiple people were dismissing the job of kindergarten teacher as beneath that of any elite person. Lily leaves her job to work in the art world; Marshall is a lawyer; Ted is an architect/professor; Barney does something vague in finance; and Robin is a newscaster. And the job of kindergarten teacher simply isn't worthy of any of them.
In the long-run, we flat-out will not be able to recruit or retain the best and the brightest if the status of teaching remains so low. The billions of dollars, oodles of effort, and reams of policy papers we've recently expended on improving teacher quality will all be for naught if teaching is beneath the elite.