The Harm of “Service” in Education

Teaching requires service and sacrifice. If you’re in the field of education, especially if you are a teacher, you will at some point be thanked for your sacrifice. It is always said with a sad, but we’ll meaning smile– one that seems to say “better you than me”. People, within and outside the field, don’t understand the harm this language poses to those in the profession.

There is a harm of “service/sacrifice” language tied to discussions of professions, especially female dominated professions like teaching. Sacrifice language devalues the scope and effort put into work that should rightfully be compensated. When tied to a female dominated profession, such language becomes another mechanism to fight against for equal or better pay.

(And yes, the gender wage gap is a thing. A well-documented thing).

Additionally, the language increases a sense of obligation or duty placed on the employee. “Thank you for your service” implies that you do the work, and will continue to do so. You can’t say no.

But the (often significant) time involved in this service doesn’t help your career. Service is often not a component for evaluation or promotion at many levels of education.

Higher education is the notable exception. While colleges/universities have service as a tenure component, the scope of the required service is not explained. And not all jobs are created equal. Certain jobs/duties carry hidden prestige, while others are just time eaters.

However, you can’t say no. Refusing service, even time-consuming service, means you will not be offered service or duties later. You are viewed as a non-team player.

But we must make a stand against unpaid, unrecognized work.

Just say no to service. We deserve to be paid.

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