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Uncategorized   |   Jan 27, 2011

Become a teacher. Your country needs you.

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Become a teacher. Your country needs you.

By Angela Watson

I watched the State of the Union address last night with the #SOTU Twitter feed scrolling down my laptop screen. At times, there were over 1,000 tweets per second about President Obama’s speech. Some were comical (“When is Obama going to announce the iPad 2?” and “Budget cuts taking effect immediately. There will be no pizza bagels at tonight’s reception.” and “I’m a Catholic and even I think there’s too much standing, sitting, and standing again at the SOTU”.)  And there were many, many jokes about Boehner’s complexion rivaling that of the ‘Jersey Shore’ cast.

Others tweets reflected on the deeper issues. Most tweeters seemed to positively view Pres. Obama’s message on education. My husband and I loved one particular line and I prompted posted the following on Facebook and Twitter:


Little did I know how controversial that statement was.

The comments I got back represented a really wide range of opinions, and the dissenters were passionate. Some people disliked the president’s assumption that becoming a teacher is an option during these times of extreme budget cuts:



Others thought Pres. Obama was taking the profession far too lightly:


I think these are really important perspectives that challenged the way I thought about the president’s speech. Here is my response:


Ultimately, I still believe “Become a teacher–your country needs you.” was a great line. What are your thoughts about President Obama’s message on education?


Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. As much as I’d like to believe the sentiment spoken in this speech which praises the necessity of educators, I don’t think it passes for more than flourish. It’s a nice thought in a very general way, but comes across as no more than a nice political bromide. I feel sedated that Obama likes teachers enough, but then we’re supposed to just go along with whatever Arne Duncan throws up.

    I’ve tried hard to get behind what this administration does, but they haven’t been much help to themselves. I’m done unless Duncan goes and Obama’s tone shifts to help support the teaching PROFESSION and not just a teaching FORCE.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Steve. Sounds like your beef is not with the ‘your country needs you’ line itself, but with the general rhetoric we’ve heard on education under Pres. Obama’s administration. As you posted on your blog, Race to the Top is simply ‘the lesser of two evils’ with NCLB. We have yet to see the kind of meaningful change that is needed.

      BTW…for those who haven’t had the privilege of reading Steve’s blog, he posted an excellent commentary on the president’s education agenda in this blog after the SOTU: http://mooreonthepage.com/archives/837. There’s a great discussion going on in the comments.

  2. I didn’t watch the SOTU address nor do I teach. I’ve been told many times in my life as a teenager or young adult that I should be a teacher. I never really had the desire to be a teacher but find myself as an author becoming a teacher of sorts. I’m enjoying every minute of it but I think part of it is because I don’t have to be stressed by dealing with hooligans (kids these days have no respect for authority figures nor are they disciplined enough to grasp what is being taught and a lot of it falls on the parents’ shoulders due to their fear of having DSS or the police called for trying to discipline their kids – the words abuse will be so strong and leave a mark far worse than any busting butt will do), I don’t have to plan out daily schedules of what to teach. I have a set of workshops that I already know what I’m striving for.

    I agree that he making a blanket statement like that doesn’t say much for him or his writers because he too seems to be making a mockery of a very difficult profession. You have to have passion for whatever you seek to do. I always knew I wanted to go in to the medical field but did not want to be a doctor, nor did I want to be a nurse (and no, it’s not because needles or blood or things like that bother me; my father was a medic in the military and he worked in the emergency room when he was stationed at West Point and I would go sit there after school and people watch – until I had to catch the last bus home since he was working second shift and I knew how long I could sit there before making the bus trek home) – I wanted to do something in the medical field – and I do – I’ve been doing medical transcription for the better part of the past 20 years. I love it; it was the perfect fit for me – still have a medical background (graduated with a medical secretary degree with a minor in word processing) and I love typing – that is something I’m good at. But me a teacher, I don’t see the same passion, although I did teach a semester at a local college this past summer – but I was teaching something I know – an introductory course to medical transcription –

    I think the blanket statement has faults but I can also see your side of the coin too – You definitely have sparked a good discussion – E 🙂

    1. Hi, Elysabeth, thank you for sharing your story. I like your point that “You have to have passion for whatever you seek to do.” This concept seems to be lost on a lot of people. But, I don’t think Obama is one of them. I perceive him as a person who has a deep passion for what he’s doing that goes beyond politics or power–I think he truly believes he’s making a positive difference for our country and is trying to create the greatest good for the greatest number of people. My personal opinion, based on what I’ve heard him say over the past few years, is that Obama knows that teachers need to be passionate about the field, and they need to be supported in doing their jobs…but he doesn’t have the power to undo the troubled legacy of American education. Race to the Top is better than NCLB, so perhaps in his mind, it’s a halfway decent starting place. Education reform is extremely complex problem and most legislators don’t understand it; they’ll fight tooth and nail over any initiative that makes good sense. One person, even if he’s the president of the United States, can only create a certain amount of change when both the political and educational systems in our country are skewed in a completely different direction.

  3. I think, rather than encouraging many new people to go into the field, he needs to focus on reemploying the thousands and thousands of teachers that have been laid off the past 5 years. In my home state of Ohio we graduate over 10,000 new teachers from our universities each year. The state itself usually only has about 600 openings. And that was when thing were good for teachers there. Now the districts get rid of older, more expensive and experienced teachers to afford to hire newbies that aren’t fully equipped to manage a classroom or knoweldgeable about the subject matter. That’s what happened to me. I now teach abroad because there was no chance for me to find a position at home.

    Also, many teachers are qualified for retirement at age 58 if they started teaching right after college. They have to stay on 7 years longer to be able to have health coverage. If the new healthcare plan can cover them when they are financially able to retire rather than an arbitrary age, many would leave the field and open up jobs for so many teachers who are fresh and waiting to teach.

    Finally, I agree that passion for you subject is the difference between a teacher and an amazing teacher. I teach science. I love it more than anything. I can’t imagine doing anything else and the topics I get to teach in science excite me and therefore excite my students. Occasionally, my district has had the silly idea of having me teach something else due to my 1-8 all subject licensure. These years have not gone well. I was adequate at best. Give me science and I will give you great student progress. It is a passion. It is a calling.

    1. Jennifer, I’m glad you shared what’s happening in Ohio. That definitely makes any challenge to ‘become a teacher’ sound hopelessly idealistic.

      “Passion for your subject is the difference between a teacher and an amazing teacher.” Well said. I, too, have seen schools move teachers out of the subject area or grade level they’re passionate about and the effect on students is often extremely detrimental (hence my post Switching Grades: Teacher Needs vs. School Needs.) And yet most people in government and educational leadership disregard this, because passion isn’t quantifiable or measurable.

  4. I liked that quote too but personally for the line, “In South Korea teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect,” held much more meaning. I think we are being held accountable to our students learning with no respect in return. It was nice to hear the President reminding the public just how we should be treated. Know if only everyone was listening!

    1. Robin, thanks for reminding me of that line. You’re totally right about the respect not shown toward teachers by their students…and unfortunately, that same disrespect is shown by educational and government leaders toward teachers in everything from budget cuts to outrageous testing mandates. Whether Pres. Obama’s line about teachers being ‘nation builders’ is all rhetoric or not, I think it’s a good step toward restoring education to a place of honor in our country. It certainly can’t hurt for our president to insist that teachers are a critical force in building our nation.

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