i have been reading this post by stressed teacher (on the movie "freedom writers"), and the exchange between GomuGomu and yanjie on the comments thread. i have a few fragmented thoughts to share after thinking about what was said:
stressed teacher compared the job of teacher to that of ministers (in view of the recent salary raise; not the first time). i feel ambivalent about such a comparison. i believe that teachers are probably underpaid and under-appreciated. i was told that 40% of the teachers leave after their initial 3 year bond is up, i believe HR related issues was what prompted a raise in teacher's salaries and a revamp of the promotional structure of teachers in recent years. although perhaps lacking evidence, is this not the same cited reason why they want to raise ministerial salaries?
stressed teacher states that good teachers don't get any monetary compensation for their sacrifice. meanwhile ministers are demanding more pay for theirs. the implicit conclusion that that the ministers are being unreasonable. but that is not the only possible conclusion. the other possible conclusion is that good teachers should be rewarded for their sacrifices. similarly, stressed teacher says, look teachers got teacher appreciation days and awards but politicians don't - they opt for cold hard cash instead. perhaps the implication here is that politicians and ministers are materialistic. but another possible conclusion you can draw from the same comparison is we should have politician appreciation awards and days, or we should just scrap teacher appreciation awards and days, and give them cold hard cash too.
where the analogy between teachers and ministers break down is, rather unfortunately, the fact that ministers are harder to replace than teachers. teachers leave the service because they are underpaid? nevermind, there are some more willing to take their place. does this result in a shortage of quality teachers? without a doubt. but the overall loss of replacing good teachers with mediocre teachers pales in comparison to the overall loss of replacing a good minister with a mediocre minister. perhaps the first loss is not dire enough to take a slice of the pie away from defense, workfare (or what have you; to increase teachers' salaries), but the second loss may very well be.
but what i really want to talk about has got nothing to do with ministerial pay. stressed teacher writes that the main character of the movie, Mrs G, sacrificed her time, family (and in real life, her health), all for the sake of her students. stressed teacher thinks this is not worth it. or at least, he wouldn't be willing to sacrifice that much. Gomugomu (a teacher) goes a step further and chastises such sacrificial teachers for "giving the entire teaching populace a bad image" and "perpetuating an unrealistic ideal". i really like yanjie's reply to that. reminded me about what KTM said some time ago (a bit buay paiseh ah, it was about me):
But sometimes the young punks do have insightful things to say and the old farts should still sit up and listen.
just because person A does not think it is worth it, does not mean that person B must also agree it is not worth it. what is or is not worth it to you, is a question of what is of value to you. there is no way to answer this question than from the subjective individual perspective. it is hence, very silly to compare yourself (if you are a teacher) to Mrs G, and try to justify who is the better teacher, who is the better person. what matters to you, is probably very different from what matters to Mrs G. you base your actions on what matters to you. Mrs G bases her actions on what matters to her.
but this is not what Gomugomu is really unhappy with. in an ideal world, we can just say "to each his own". but this is not an ideal world, and in real life, teachers like Mrs G, "spoil market" for other (more normal) teachers who just want to have a life on their own. this is why Gomugomu (and maybe stressed teacher) is unhappy. they might say: look Mrs G, you want to give up your life and your health and your marraige for your students, it is your perogative. but why do people demand that i do the same just because you do such things?
but does the Mrs Gs spoil market for the sake of spoiling market? do they do so as part of an elaborate political plan for further self gain? do they do so with the intension of causing great discomfort to their colleagues? i believe, most of the time, the Mrs Gs don't do so. it is quite well known that sacrificial teachers are not well rewarded. they do this out of sheer selflessness, perhaps to a fault. and on top of that, you still want to accuse them of being market spoilers? do you not realize how self-centered that is?
do parents demand you to be as sacrificial because Mrs G is so sacrificial? then shame on the parents. do the students label you a poor teacher because you just can't put in as much time as Mrs G? then shame on the students. do the middle management mark you down, deny you your promotion and your bonus because you want to have a life of your own? then shame on the middle managment. why do you blame Mrs G? is she really the one at fault here?
problematic expectations of parents, students and the middle/higher management are real issues that need to addressed. so do issues of teachers being overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated. and someone should address them. but nevertheless, just as a Mrs G has no business criticizing another teacher (such as stressed teacher) of "lack of passion" if he chooses to have a life of his own, such a teacher similarly has no business criticizing Mrs G for choosing to give up everything, including incurring the wrath of her colleagues for spoiling market, to help her students. who may very well be your children.
to conclude, i am reminded by something i read over here, about a panel discussion about "pursuing your passions". it is worthy to encourage others to pursue one's own passion, especially when the pursuit of such passion is "against the odds" and thus feels like an even more romantic notion. but sometimes when that is contrasted against something even more important, such as the lives of your loved ones, the pursuit of such passion appears to be selfish. to each his own; let no man judge another.
i've thought and contemplated before about what i want to pursue in life. i have come to realize that it is quite possible to lead a meaningful life without having to struggle and chase that one special dream or passion. one can just as well have a meaningful life, by living for the sake of other people. perhaps this is incomprehensible to some, and to the cynics it seems impossible. yet the Mrs Gs prove to us that some people will still try nevertheless. we think it is romantic to shed blood, sweat and tears to achieve a dream, but is it any less romantic to shed a dream because you choose to love somebody more than yourself?