|Teaching extends far beyond the classroom|
A few of my students on the bank of the Ganga
The above ad appeared in today’s [10 Sep] Times of India (Ascent, the job vacancies supplement). The school wants both teachers and “coaching experts.” While the teachers will be paid a salary of Rs 22,000 per month, the coaching experts will be paid from “Rs 9 Lac to 12 Lac” annually. Moreover, “Higher start can be considered for highly deserving candidates” in the case of coaching experts – but apparently not in the case of teachers.
As a teacher I was amused by the discrepancy between the remunerations of a tutor and a teacher. The job of the tutor (or coaching expert, as the ad calls him/her) is to prepare “students competing for Board Exams & for IIT, AIEEE, PMT, NDA etc.”
Why is there so much discrepancy between the remunerations, I wondered naturally. Is it tougher to prepare students for competitive exams than teach them the subject, instil values in them and mould their personality, the latter of which is a teacher’s job? In a residential school like mine, the teacher’s job is even more onerous; s/he has to provide counselling and guidance, spend time even in the night helping students with their studies as well as other activities (co-curricular and extra-curricular) and also help them solve their emotional and behavioural problems. In addition, the teacher is to keep records of these activities as well as submit occasional reports on them to the Principal. The teacher in a residential school like mine gets no extra benefit for providing the extra services!
Contrast this with the job of a tutor. S/he has to teach the subject with the explicit goal of getting the students clear the competitive exam and nothing more. But the tutor (expert?) is paid 4 times or more than a teacher. Why? This ‘why’ is what amuses me.
Is it because of the general perception that teaching is not a skilled profession?
George Bernard Shaw said in his characteristically scathing way, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” The implication of Shaw’s statement is that teaching is a profession of the impotent.
In the beginning of my teaching career I agreed with Shaw. I joined the profession when I failed to get any other job. Having failed in many an interview, I came to the logical conclusion that I belonged to the group that Shaw labelled as “those who can’t.” Eventually, however, I began to enjoy my job. Later, when I got an opportunity to change the profession for a much more lucrative one (money-wise), I opted to stay put in my original profession. Now, when people ask me why I don’t try to become a Principal or at least a Vice Principal, I say that I’m not interested in administrative jobs. Teaching is my job. Is it because I’m incapable of being an administrator? Could be, I don’t deny that. I don’t think I’ll ever learn the kind of manipulative strategies employed by administrators that I’ve been familiar with from the time I started working.
But, I’d like to look at the situation in another way. I enjoy the job of teaching. I’m fairly passionate about it. No other profession arouses such passion in me. I also feel that I’m doing the job (of teaching) fairly well. In other words, it’s not necessary that I am a teacher because I am not good for anything else, but because I am good for this particular job.
Isn’t teaching a skill just like, say, writing, engineering, acting, etc? Teaching is, after all, not merely imparting knowledge. It’s more about dealing with young individuals. The patience it demands is not minuscule.
Yet why does the profession remain so discredited? Even teachers don’t seem to like the profession themselves. Most teachers I know are happy to be promoted as administrators (coordinator, vice principal or principal). Does that mean that these people became teachers because they couldn’t get any other job? Is Shaw vindicated?
On the other hand, could it be that the meagre income derived from the profession makes it unappealing? I’m inclined to think this is the real reason why teaching remains the last choice in the career preferences.
Going one step further, I’d say that if the remuneration of teachers is enhanced better people (those who love the job) will enter the profession. After all, the “noble task of nation-building” need not be a cheap endeavour.