The question of why we aren’t paying the best teachers bonuses for their ‘magnificent contribution‘ is often thrown into the market place for debate. Differential payment of teachers is attractive in its simplicity especially to those outside education. It’s based on the premise that rewarding great teachers will motivate others to step-up. Good in theory but not in its application.
Daniel Pink has written previously that external motivators (e.g. bonuses) can end up hurting tasks that require people to problem-solve, think creatively, understand conceptually and show empathy. When Pink wrote A Whole New Mind more than a decade ago, he predicted the future would belong to the ‘right-brainers’: storytellers, designers, care-givers and inventors. In many respects, he is describing the work of teachers in today’s world.
We have to move away from this antiquated idea that teaching is an individual endeavour. Even if we went down the path of rewarding high performing teams, what are we linking the bonus to? Scores on standardised tests?
The magnificent contribution of teachers has to be understood in terms of intellectual property not brow sweat. The intellectual work of teaching today is in the design (of personalised learning), the care shown to all students, the creation of a new educational narrative; a commitment to ongoing excellence through professional learning and sharing and the ability to evaluate the impact teachers are having on student learning and progress.
In the Afterword of a Whole New Mind, Pink writes:
The peril is that our world moves at a furious pace. That means that the greatest rewards will go to those who move fast. The first group of people who develop a whole new mind, who master high-concept and high-touch abilities, will do extremely well. The rest – those who move slowly or not at all – may miss out or, worse, suffer.
Pink is right when he says the choice is yours, so how will you choose to work?