Editor's note: The following call to action was written by Nínive Clements Calegari, who was featured in Edutopia's 2007 Daring Dozen.
I'll be happy when excellent teachers don't have to work second jobs to pay their bills. It might seem strange to keep harping on this topic when 20 million people in our country don't have work, but I'll tell you why I can't let up. Plus, you can help.
The Teacher Salary Project is working to honor effective teachers, and we'd love to hear your story. Please read on to learn how you can be a part of this movement.
Here's why this matters so much:
We have to focus on our most valuable asset and resource: the kids sitting in every classroom all over our country. And now we know, unequivocally, that the most important factor for their school success is the quality of the teacher at the helm.
So, why not put the very best person there and keep them there? Let's pay teachers well so they can continue doing the work they love and afford to not take a second job.
Would you consider joining our effort?
People sometimes tell me that teachers aren't motivated by money (and I guess the thinking, therefore, is that they don't need it). But I would like to believe that there are many doctors out there who aren't motivated by money, but are fascinated by the science and pushed to do their best because of their patients. Should we underpay them?
Would we worry if 46 percent of doctors left within their first five years, as teachers do? The work is strenuous and draining and demanding, and yet, they stay. And they can buy a home in the neighborhood they want, and they don't have to work at a bar or a bookstore on the weekends to fund their passion for medicine and their patients' well being.
We expect so, so much from our teachers. And after years of research, we know for sure the best ones really make a magnificent difference in young peoples' lives. The Teacher Salary Project is hoping to shine a light on effective teachers to make sure that all Americans realize that we are all stakeholders in our schools.
Like Arne Duncan says, either for social justice reasons or as an economic imperative, we have to do better. Not pushing on this means that we perpetuate poverty and we all lose out. Dramatically.
The ultimate vision of The Teacher Salary Project is to propel teaching into the financially attractive, prestigious and competitive profession it needs to be. We dream of a nation where every child -- not just students in wealthy and middle class schools -- will have stellar teachers who not only inspire and challenge students to live up to their potential, but grow in their profession to shape whole communities.
The project will build the necessary political will around this issue and provide the concrete tools to reshape our educational system dramatically -- one district at a time.
Blending multi-media documentary storytelling with video submissions from the public, this project is a collective story by and about those who have the greatest impact on student success -- our nation's teachers. The film will encourage discussion and inspire communities to change. After its debut, our online archive will continue to serve as an evolving source of information, news, and links to districts at the forefront of reform.
Join us to change American culture so that students receive the education they deserve.
Send us a letter or a video of 1-3 minutes telling your own story -- why you teach, your setbacks, your triumphs, your hopes, your frustrations, or a certain memory that sticks in your mind. E-mail questions or written submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and learn more at our Web site.
We'll weave your stories into our film and our Web site. Together we would like to represent the very best of the teaching profession to inspire our audiences to action.
-- Nínive Clements Calegari
Nínive Clements Calegari is co-founder of the 826 National writing centers, and co-author of Teachers Have it Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers.