What if Doctors Were Treated Like Teachers? #CCK11 #ELTchat #edchat #ukedchat

Doctor and Teacher (Credit: Google images)

In a recent debate, over nine million people were asked the question, through social-media, “Is teaching a profession?” The answer was unanimous: “Yes, it is. Teaching is a profession.”

Now, I can see you looking at me curiously. If you are my friend, you’re thinking to yourself, “Tom, you need to take a break, get some rest.”

For those of you who don’t know me very well, you’re wondering to yourself, “Thomas, what have you been smoking? Did you expect people to say, No, teaching is not a profession.” 🙂

Yet bear with me a while longer. Indulge me, have patience, I pray thee.

What isn’t and hasn’t been said, however, at least not very loudly, if at all, is that teachers, although fully recognized professionals, don’t get a lot of respect. We also don’t get paid very much either.

Let’s recap this so far:

1. Low respect / low prestige

2. Low pay

Well, it follows then, that if you don’t pay me very well, and you don’t respect me very well, and if society at large accords me low prestige, then, let’s face it, everyone is going to feel empowered to treat teachers accordingly. In a word, differently, from, let’s say, a doctor, a medical professional.

“What do I mean by that?”, you ask.

Let me illustrate. Go on the street, any street, and ask the first ten people you meet, “Should teachers be held accountable for the results of the education of your country?”

Here, the overwhelming majority will likely answer, “Yes”. No discussion about it, “yes” is an obvious answer. We don’t need statistics.

It’s a no-brainer, teachers teach the children, so we must be held accountable for the results.

Now, it’s the doctors’ turn. Go on the street, any street, and ask the first ten people you meet, “Should doctors be held accountable for the health of the people in your country?”

Here, the overwhelming majority will likely answer, “No”.

Of course, you will want to ask why not. So you go, “Why not?”

The answer(s) will be of the variety we see below:

You can’t blame doctors for:

1. poor people having bad health. (socio-economic status)
2. obesity. (medication / diet / exercise )
3. high blood pressure. (medication / diet / exercise)
4. heart attacks. (medication / diet / exercise)
5. diabetes (medication / diet exercise)
6. strokes (medication / diet / exercise
7. ??? (medication / diet exercise)

Dear reader and friend, you get the picture. Society is pretty darn lenient with doctors. We don’t hold them accountable for things which they could be reasonably expected to perform a lot better, for society as a whole.

On the other hand, society, in general, gets pretty riled up about teachers. People get angry when they talk about the performance of the teaching profession.

There is even, “strong empirical evidence that suggests teachers are the most important aspect in the educational achievement of students.”

And so, society is very upset with these so-called “Teacher Professionals”.

“Why can’t teachers be more like doctors?”, society asks.

This teacher, myself, asks the reverse question:

“What if doctors were treated like teachers?”

Best regards,

Thomas Baker
Teacher of English as a Foreign Language
Santiago, Chile

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Connectivism, Education, Politics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to What if Doctors Were Treated Like Teachers? #CCK11 #ELTchat #edchat #ukedchat

  1. LaborTeacher says:

    Thank you, once again, Profesor Baker, for expression in a clear, loud voice what many of us think.
    Unfortunately, in Spain doctors and nurses are now being treated like teachers, and respect from patients and relatives is currently a major concern among the medical profession.
    Let’s hope we, as teachers, can make things change for the better in a near future.
    All the best. Un saludo cordial desde Vigo, Galicia.


  2. jaapsoft2 says:

    Nice speech, Official reports often say: “Do pay teachers more, and after some time more educated people will become teacher, and after some more time teachers will be more respected. And even the quality of education will boost.”
    It is so true and so unlikely to happen. So teachers are not paid enough, and clever students do not want to be teachers, so teachers will not be respected, and in the long run, quality of education is getting lesser.


    • Hi Jaapsoft,

      Thanks for your valuable observations. It goes without saying that I hope your words could be heeded, and that the professionalization of teaching could go hand-in-hand with those missing elements you cite.

      Have a great day my friend,



  3. Hola LT,

    Muchas gracias por su respuesta valiosa.

    Thanks for your generous words. You know how much I appreciate your interaction.

    Yes, it seems, times are changing, not only for our profession, but for others as well. Let’s hope that in the end, this will result in a better life today, and a better future tomorrow, for everyone.

    Un abrazo fraternal,

    desde Santiago de Chile


  4. Bob says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. Not so long ago, when filling out some tedious insurance document online, I was asked what my job was. Teacher was in the same category as “lorry driver”. Says a lot about the status of teachers, unfortunately.

    However, it does work both ways. Walk into the average staff room and ask if anyone has read any papers/books on pedagogy recently, and chances are you’ll be ridiculed very quickly. If my doctor admitted that he’d not been keeping up to date with the latest medical research, I’d probably look elsewhere. To be treated like professionals we have to behave like professionals, and unfortunately there are a lot of teachers who don’t. But then, we don’t get paid like professionals, so who can blame them?


    • Hi Bob,

      Thank you kindly for stopping by, and for your valuable interaction. Your comments and observations are greatly appreciated.

      I agree with you. When my students say that, “I agree with you”, I always ask them to be specific. I believe it is possible, but rare, to agree with everything someone has said, without reservation.

      Yet in this rare instance, Bob, I find myself in full acceptance and agreement of what you have said. You make the case quite eloquently:

      1. Teachers in the same category as “lorry drivers” (“lorry = truck” ) (for my friends who speak USA English).

      2. Teachers (professionals) who consider their education “complete” the day they graduate. (no CPD)

      3. Doctors who follow a program of rigorous, constant, lifetime CPD.

      4. Professional behaviour of low-quality by some teachers (in general – on a case by case basis: not collectively)

      5. Demotivation as a result of low pay and low prestige from the public

      Bob, you have described a “perfect storm”, a negative feedback loop, a vicious cycle. What is the cause of what? (What happened first, “the chicken or the egg”?)

      Turning this vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle, a harmonious symphony, if we can speak of it in musical terms, will be a task that can not be ignored, not in the globalised world we live in today.

      Again, as you can see, I am in full and total agreement with your assessment. I thank you for generously taking the time to stop by, and leave a thought behind. You have given me a great deal to consider, and for my readers, and accordingly, I give you my appreciation.

      Please feel free to stop by again, on another day, in another opportunity.

      You are a most welcome guest.

      Your friend in Chile,


    • Brian Wyzlic says:

      “To be treated like professionals we have to behave like professionals.” This is exactly it. I’ve talked a lot with my co-workers (at 2 different schools) about teachers being treated as professionals. We all would like the respect, if not the higher pay. One of the biggest things that I dealt with at my former school was the school board, none of whom were professional educators, making unilateral decisions for the school, including curriculum and school policies. But while we wanted respect in the way of being allowed to have a professional say in our school, we didn’t talk much about staying up on current practices. Now, some of us did keep up on things, but we didn’t do much as a staff about it.

      The State of Michigan has a decent plan in place — all teachers need to earn so many college credits or earn what they call CEUs (continuing education units) by attending conferences and seminars. For their entire careers. I assume other jurisdictions have similar things set up, though I’m not familiar with them.


      • Hi Brian,

        Thank you for your visit, bringing with you another perspective, which resonates well with what is beginning to develop. Thank you kindly for your contribution.

        You add another piece to the puzzle, validating from a distant perspective, in Michigan (USA), what a colleague has observed in the UK. Were you and Bob (above) to meet and share a beer, you would surely find a wealth of shared experiences andobservations to discuss.

        The teaching profession, it seems, faces the same challenges, the same trials, the same tribulations, world-wide. We are, in the end, more united in this respect than is commonly understood.

        The state of Michigan, as you describe its practice in requiring CEUs (continuing education units), appears to be a very commendable step on the road towards professionalisation, and thusly increased prestige, from the public we serve, collectively.

        Obviously, there is more that needs to be done, but on a local level, then a state level, then a global, or international level, this appears as the way to effect the change that greater professionalism would demand.

        Again, thank you most kindly for your generous interaction with me and the reader(s) today.

        May I take this opportunity, noticing the date on your post is February 14, coming to me from the future (here in Chile it is still February 13), to wish you and all those whom you love and care for, a very special Valentine’s Day!

        Best regards from your friend in Chile,


  5. Steve Philp says:

    In the UK, doctors are expected to manage their own CPD and then are appraised each year by an external examiner to see if their own personal process is good enough. Teachers on the other hand have a much looser structure around CPD – some take it very seriously, engaging in CPD of various forms, whereas others do only what they have to do within the requirements of their organisation.

    I see your point – I wish teachers were treated better, but I wouldn’t want to see doctors treated worse. Teachers deal with the ‘important’, but doctors deal with the ‘urgent and important’. I’m glad doctors aren’t treated like teachers – I wouldn’t want my doctor, when I go and see her, to be disgruntled, working to rule and only doing the minimum required. – I think in many ways it boils down to maximum and minimum standards – in teaching (in the UK anyway) we have a much greater range between the maximum and the minimum.

    I will, however, at this point declare a bias. I am a teacher married to a doctor…


    • Hi Steve,

      Thank you kindly for stopping by. Your valuable interaction, personal insigths, and observations are sincerely appreciated. Your observations are surely of as much interest for the reader(s) as the original post.

      It is interesting to see you, Steve the teacher, on the one hand, in the midpoint of conflicting, interests, due to your role as Steve, spouse of a doctor, on the other hand. Often, being that close to the forest, metaphorically, results in limited vision because of the trees. Not seeing the foresst for the trees is what might be expected.

      Steve, you take a step back, look at both perspectives, and then conclude, (I quote)

      “I think in many ways it boils down to maximum and minimum standards – in teaching (in the UK anyway) we have a much greater range between the maximum and the minimum.”

      Your conclusion strikes me as one that is probably evident in many countries around the world, for a variety of reasons. I hasten to add that your conclusion is valid for my country, Chile.

      Again, thank you most kindly for interacting with me, and sharing your personal story on this issue. It helps me to see the issue from a different perspective, through your eyes, and I appreciate that greatly.

      Please feel free to return for another visit, on another day, for you are quite welcome here.

      Best regards,


  6. educhange says:


    I enjoyed this post. For me, as an educator in the USA I have always thought that teachers should form an organization, similar to the bar for lawyers and doctors. This organization could not be part of the unions because it would serve cross interests. The “Teaching Bar” would set the professional standards for teachers and would be responsible for removing teaching credentials (temporarily or permanently) in cases of malpractice of sorts. It would be run by teachers, not the government, districts, or the unions. I believe such an organization would both solve the issue from the public’s perspective regarding teachers that should not be in the classroom, and it would not touch “tenure” persay because it would be separate from districts. It would help the public to see that we hold our own to a standard of professionalism, which would grow our treatment as professionals. Perhaps other countries already do this?


    • Hi “Ed”,

      Thank you for your generous use of your time today, stopping by to share your views on this topic. I give you my gratitude for your generosity, with me, and the reader(s).

      I also thank you, yet again, for your kind words. I am happy you enjoyed the reading of the post itself.

      Your proposal, for a “Teaching Bar” is a high quality solution for a profession, any profession, whose members, decide to take the steps that would result in an elevation of their status and stature and prestige, in the eyes of the public.

      These steps were taken by doctors in their moment in history, and we also have the well-known example of the practice of law.

      To my knowledge, this happened also with the nursing profession in the USA.

      For example, when is a nurse, a nurse? One would think that having graduated from university, diploma in hand, that a nurse is then a nurse, and can begin professional practice.

      However, if the nurse does not pass the licensing examination, the RN NCLEX, then the nurse, duly graduated from university, diploma in hand, will not be allowed to register with the Board of Nursing. The Board operates at state level.

      Further, the Board regulates Continuous Professional Development, and disciplinary issues / code of conduct violations. For misconduct, ethical cases, or incompetency in practice, or failure to participate in Continuous Professional Development, a nurse can lose their registration, and with it, their right to practice their profession.

      The Board operates on only one guiding principle: Protect the Public. Unions, and trade organizations, operate in separate and distinct organizations, protecting the integrity of the Board by removing them from conflicts of interest caused by outside organizations.

      This professional model operates in every state in the USA.

      I understand your post as asking why teachers, globally, have not taken such a step already. The answers to our failure to do this are surely multi-layered, complex, and beyond the scope of this musing that I do here.

      Yet before concluding, I would like to add that I agree with your solution for the “Prestige Problem” which teachers suffer in most countries world-wide.

      The solution however, which seems to have been adopted, complicitly, is that the status quo is preferable to “rocking the boat”. Maybe, just maybe, we are in a moment in history, where the tide has changed, whee a new kind of networked, connected, global acting teacher is coming into the light of day, and change might be closer than many of us would like to think.

      Just maybe, this post, and your response, serves to light a spark, someplace else on the planet, whee things are dark… Just maybe…

      Thank you kindly for interacting with me here, “Ed”. I have thoroughly enjoyed your visit, and hope to entertain you again in the future, here.

      Best regards from your friend,

      Thomas Baker
      Teacher of English as a Foreign Language
      Santiago, Chile


  7. Thbeth says:

    Olá, a minha opinião é a de que os Médicos são mais respeitados do que os professores porque no particular de cada um de nós, pensamos no desconhecido do nosso corpo e queremos ter a certeza que vem de um diagnostico proposto por uma outra pessoa. Neste caso vejo dificuldades para os professores na medida em que o conhecimento pode ser partilhado.
    Os médicos ao tratarem do corpo séculos atrás falavam com sabedoria sobre algo que era proibido pela igreja.
    E unindo os outros medos das pessoas creditamos ao médico o poder do saber.
    Mas atualmente ninguém é um bom médico sem tecnologia ativa! exames exames, exames.

    Por isso devemos esclarecer aos nossos alunos que estamos em situação de igual uso de tecnologia para com os médicos.

    Os laboratórios que aplicam tecnologia avançada auxiliam aos medicos, da mesma forma tecnologia pode ajudar na educação.


  8. Ralph says:

    Clearly it is a worthy ideal for teachers to be respected and paid like doctors. To make progress toward that goal the author could have started with a more fair and balanced comparison. Does a teacher have to make the same sacrifices a doctor does to enter the profession? Does a teacher invest the same amount of their life annually to their profession? Do teachers control the supply of professionals? Is it easier to become a teacher than a doctor? Is the daily task of being a teacher as urgent and important as a Doctor’s? I suspect if one did a survey of the hourly compensation for teachers and doctors their pay would not be that different. Over the last ten years doctors in the US are making less money while teachers continue to earn more


  9. Geoff Cain says:

    Paying doctors more money has not resulted in better health care. In fact, in the U.S., just the opposite has happened. I would like to be able to treat teachers like doctors, but I think some teachers I have had better take out some malpractice insurance 🙂


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