Not another rich teacher…

 

Very funny… right?  But why is it funny?

If I had said “rich doctor, rich lawyer or rich businessman”, we wouldn’t have batted an eye.

 

 

Why so?  Is our professional path not valuable, or worse, not valued?

Of course, not… there’s more to the story, though…

 

I don’t know how it is for you, but I wholeheartedly ran from professions that would’ve made me rich, and I think many teachers can probably identify with this train of thought:  I didn’t want more of the pie than anyone else. I wanted truth, happiness and the feeling that I was making a positive local impact for our global tomorrow.  The 70+ comments on “Why did you become a teacher” showed me I certainly wasn’t alone in this way of thinking.

Measured by our material gain, we’re discrediting the values that often brought us to this profession.  Of course, this doesn’t have to undermine our being compensated “fairly” and rewarded for higher professional development or experience as discussed in Phil Wade and David Petrie‘s posts on “What is your value?”.

VALUE = RARE

What is rare has often been what is most valuable… gold, diamonds, beauty, supreme physical form, intelligence, plutonium, salt (which is where the word salary comes from!).

What is VALUABLE now in the 21st century?

Well, yes, the rare materials as before; the hard-to-enter professions that require years of study; exceptional talent… but there is something new that is valuable because of its scarcity. In our modern information-dense world, attention is scarce, and it is actually one of the growing bases of our economy as well as the cornerstone of Facebook, Youtube, Google and other huge internet giants.  They have your attention and they are profitable businesses because they can sell that attention to someone else.  This article from Wired shows that in 2011 Facebook doubled its revenue, and 89% was from …

ADVERTISING

Oh, how I love to discuss advertising in class.  Hot topic it is!  We’ve had week-long debates, developed projects on it and I consistently (and selfishly) challenge students to analyze our day-to-day collisions with ads in hopes of breaking the enchantment that it can hold over us.

Ok, so what’s the point?

In the end, we all know that value is 100% subjective; “one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure”.  It is important to note, though, that the values and types of interactions that drove us to our professions as teachers lie far from those that drive others to seek greater material wealth.

We are not rich teachers.  Quite the opposite, but we are rich to lead a life that we have chosen.

Finally, our decision to enter the teaching profession may have been values-based, but it is only the first in MANY, MANY values-based decisions while teaching and choosing how and with what to teach.  I mention this because the education industry IS going to be shaken up in the next few years, and it NEEDS to be too.

Not another rich publishing company…

Whereas as our values are aligned with ‘fair-sharing’ and the growth of our students, these are not necessarily the priorities for the major actors in Educational publishing.  Apple is entering the show now (what are its motivations you wonder…), and a recent Wired article explained how it’ll be quite the showdown because Educational publishing is a HUGE industry with enormous profits.  It is also an industry that has historically been very adept at keeping others out of its well-protected educational sector.

Will the Goliaths continue to dominate?

Or will more open platforms, crowd-sourced platforms, smaller teams with niche and innovative lunges outflank them?  That was the story of the encyclopedia dominated by Encyclopedia Britannica for 200 years, usurped by Microsoft in the 90s with Encarta, and then both left to the wayside by Wikipedia in the past 10 years.

It all makes me think of how happy I am to be where I am right now.  I don’t want to be the overzealous evangelist, but my team at Edulang is a David among Goliaths, and our slingshot needs to be wielded wisely.  I am resolute in the belief that my team is shaking things up with our pay-what-you-want offer, and it is largely because our direction has a ‘fair-share of the pie’ philosophy that teachers can identify with.  But, just as importantly, it is also in line with the great truth that “value is subjective”… as we ask the English teachers and students of the world:  What is the value of our efforts to you?

Ah…2012.  It is an exciting time to be alive. ;-)

 

 

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  • Phil

    Thanks for the mention Brad. 

    I think I consciously chose this path back in 2001/2. It was after an honest conversation with my partner about what we wanted to do with our lives. I had already realised that there wasn’t much money in EFL and decent jobs were few and far between but I just wasn’t cut out for office work and this was my calling, well I hoped. At that point I resigned myself to a future in EFL. The pros for me were fantastic such as interesting  work, meeting various people and getting emersed in cultures but I think the main draw was that it is never the same. Yes, I’ve had to work weekends, evenings and do 2/3/4+  jobs at once but it’s never dull, ever!

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Nice, Phil.  I get it.

    I had actually wanted to share a few pics from my early trips to Africa, India and Mexico where I realized how an even medicore-paying job in the west was so rich, and how a lot of that wealth was built on the shoulders of others that would never see such benefits… hence the fair-shaing of the pie.

    Glad to hear that it’s never the same for you.  I know diversity of experience and change is so important to me too, and I agree an office job just wouldn’t cut it… it would cut off my life force actually!

    Cheers, Brad

  • http://www.tmenglish.org/ Stephen Greene

    Hi Brad,

    I actually became a teacher by mistake; I couldn’t think of anything else to do after university that excited me and as money wasn’t a huge motivator I decided to travel around for a bit teaching English.  Within a year I had caught the teaching bug and never looked back.

    Money still doesn’t motivate me, so long as I have enough to look after myself and my family.  It gets my goat, though, when I am teaching certain businessmen or, as was the case in the past, some rich kids and I had the distinct feeling that they looked down on me because they thought/knew that my pay packet was so feeble.  This is only true in a minority of cases, but I am as professional as a doctor, lawyer or what have you and so that feeling of not being valued annoys me.

    Stephen Greene
    http://www.tmenglish.org

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting again, Stephen.

    I love professions by mistake.  I went to Mexico to volunteer on organic farms for a few months and instead stumbled upon a retreat center where after a month I started training to be a massage therapist and ended up spending a 1/2 a year learning tons of wonderful alternative medicinal therapies and spanish to boot.Being considered a full-fledged profession is an issue for many in our industry so I can totally understand where you’re coming from.  Demand for English teachers has historically been so high that we could teach for awhile without much pedagogical background- a plus for those of us that like exploring, though a negative for us that make a career of it… especially when some might not give it the credit it is due as you’ve noted.    Cheers, Brad

  • http://twitter.com/Marisa_C MarisaConstantinides

    It ain’t right though, you know Brad… We live lives of passion for education but we deserve doctor and lawyer salaries though only the big fish in our industry actually get them. The rest of us find virtue in our love for our profession. I think we need to shake up things a little. I hate to train teachers and inspire them with a love for a profession which will never allow them to live the lives of rich publishers. 

    Marisa

  • Luke Meddings

    I really enjoyed this post, Brad. As you suggested in your tweet, I do think the round is in the same ballpark – collaboration over monetization, and a bottom-up approach that may pay no more but might just (in the wyrds of the Byrds) feel a whole lot better.

    I also think unplugging is relevant here. We opt out of big business, opt into (or end up embracing) teaching – and can easily find ourselves toeing the line for publishers in what is as you say a massive global market. It’s a cut-throat market too, with it’s own inducements and borderline practices.

    Let’s just do it – ourselves!

  • http://twitter.com/seburnt Tyson Seburn

    I remember a post not long ago about being obsessed with the mess that is celebrity (or ‘education’, depending on how you look at it: 
    http://fourc.ca/obsessed/) where I similarly compared the high-paying jobs of celebrity with that of educators–a truly fair comparison, you might think. ;)

    Scott Thornbury’s post (http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/e-is-for-ecoursebook/) introduced me to Apple’s early adoption attack into coursebooks and in one way, Edulang and in another, the round, came to mind.  Wait! There are companies, Davids as you say, that are already there and starting out in this new model of educational resources.  Don’t crush them, Apple.

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    I know, Marisa.  I know.

    So, the question is, then… how do we shake things up?  And who’s leading the charge?  It takes a fair amount of risk and dedication to pull things in a new way, and in the end, I don’t want more, I just want fair.  As I said, 2012 is an interesting time to be alive as I think things are starting to shake!

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    I think we’re both on that path, Luke and I think it feels right.  Let our voices be heard!  Merci 4 stopping by and sharing, bud!

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    I hear ya, Ty, and thanks for the links (was in China when you posted the celebrity one so I missed it!).  

    In the end, what is the control we have to combat a Goliath?  Our choices of consumption, our voice and our community.  All three of those have been heightened with the internet and are evening the playing field.  Again, 2012 is an interesting time to be alive, ain’t it!  Cheers, b  

  • http://twitter.com/MarianSteiner Marián Steiner

    I love the comments your post inspires, Brad. not to mention your attitude to life and teaching, which, luckily, more and more of us seem to be sharing. My only hope is, as Marisa writes, that, somehow, sooner or later, we will manage to shake things up enough to improve the situation. Investing in teachers is a VERY long-term investment, but with a most lasting effect.

    I do hope values are changing in the right direction globally.

    It’s great to know we’re all working on it!!! 

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Thanks, Marian.

    It’s inspiring for me say what I really think and then to have so many other educators come forward and share a similar perspective. For someone who doesn’t feel many material clings to earning more or having more, my shaking up of things would be liberating them from the ‘unfair sharing’ commercial practice that currently dominates the industry.

    I think that will change soon because access to quality materials for very little (like Edulang’s offer), or access to crowd-sourced platforms, bottom-up as Luke suggests are happening as well. There will always be room for innovation. There will always be room for competition that drives innovation… but I’m not sure that there will always be room for Goliaths that stomp around and have administrations dictate what the curriculum should be simply because that’s what it was the year before. Shake it up!

    Cheers, Brad

  • http://twitter.com/seburnt Tyson Seburn

    Yes – I’ve been reading and using a lot of material with regards to the Occupy movements with students lately.  One common thread is that they need to adopt more of a bottom-up approach, where they make changes at the person-to-person level and I believe it’s the same with us.  If we choose to purchase David’s wares over Goliath’s wares, Goliath will have no choice but to change.

  • http://twitter.com/seburnt Tyson Seburn

    Yes – I’ve been reading and using a lot of material with regards to the Occupy movements with students lately.  One common thread is that they need to adopt more of a bottom-up approach, where they make changes at the person-to-person level and I believe it’s the same with us.  If we choose to purchase David’s wares over Goliath’s wares, Goliath will have no choice but to change.

  • http://twitter.com/seburnt Tyson Seburn

    Yes – I’ve been reading and using a lot of material with regards to the Occupy movements with students lately.  One common thread is that they need to adopt more of a bottom-up approach, where they make changes at the person-to-person level and I believe it’s the same with us.  If we choose to purchase David’s wares over Goliath’s wares, Goliath will have no choice but to change.

  • Collolearn

    Fantastic piece, as always, Brad. I see two possible outcomes: 1) The Davids of the world cut into the corporate publishing pie, eventually dominating “cottage industry” style, or 2) we attract enough attention and garner enough support along the way to shake up the establishment, leaving the giants with no choice but to woo and court us; if this turns out to be the case, I believe we need to be ready to negotiate deals that allow us to take advantage of larger distribution channels without compromising our integrity, similar to the way SMART independent record labels and publishing imprints have done in the past.

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Very true, and Goliath is changing (by digitalizing), but his old system of product control and huge marketing hasn’t changed much yet, and that’s where the internet is really changing the game. Bottom-up it is, and hopefully will continue to be.

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Thanks for the kind words, Jason.

    I think there’s a lot of shaking going on, and I think it’ll only increase.  I think your first outcome has already happened for some and will continue to be the case for others.  As for the second that’s pretty typical as well (with a number of the big actors buying out smaller actors all the time) and yes then it’s “big business” and integrity and maintaining originality are of course an issue.

    I’m happy to be participating in the shake-up show as I know you are too.  Best, b

  • http://ilovetefl.wordpress.com/ Christina Rebuffet-Broadus

    Interesting article and yes, I believe teaching is a very enriching profession (not monetarily, but in other ways). Otherwise, why would so many of us spend our free time reading other teachers’ blogs, attending conferences out of pocket, and trying to better ourselves when we know it won’t lead to a raise or more secure position.

    However, I have to agree with Marisa here, that yes, we are worth the same as the big shot professions. I’m not saying I feel like I should be rich, but I think there is a problem with values and how much a school values its teachers (and indirectly, its students) when they are paying teacher less than what some of those students are making in their paid part-time internships. That means that yes, I have a few students aged 19-22 or so who are still in school, working in a company three or four days a week, and making more than their English teacher.

    I can accept that teaching is not a rich profession (again, only speaking in monetary terms), but it shouldn’t be a poor one either.

    It’s all about paying a fair price for what you value. Maybe a fair trade teaching cooperative will become a future answer!

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Hi Christina.  Thanks for stopping by.  I enjoyed checking out your new blog.  Excited to see where you’re off to with that!  

    A fair-trade teaching cooperative.  Hmm… I like the sound of it.  An effort like that could be both local and global. I agree; it’s frustrating to earn less than what we think is our value.  I started off my professional life as a cook because I loved cuisine and worked in a few very famous restaurants in the US… working twice as much as the servers I still earned 3 or 4 times less than them.  Teachers who earn less than their students must feel equally as frustrating.  

    I saw that you’re in a DELTA program and hope that those studies will help you establish greater value of your teaching (both qualitatively and financially) in the years to come.

  • Sylvie_guinan

    “Edupreneurs connected to the world online don’t need Goliaths – grassroots & technology are the new collaborators – too nimble for unwieldy giants to keep up!!

    Freedom, experimention & individuality are bringing healthy winds of change.”

    Sylvia cyber sprite.

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    ;-)  Nimble indeed!