Dear Prospective Teacher,

Are you passionate? I mean, REALLY passionate? Are you so passionate it hurts?

Because here’s the thing: People rant about how teachers are underpaid, but if we compensated teachers like actual professionals, how would we know if they are passionate?

Above all else, America’s teachers must be passionate, and the only way to tell if someone is passionate about something is to gauge how much they’re willing to suffer for their passion.

So before you become a teacher, think about how badly you want this. For example, in addition to being criminally overworked and underpaid, you also might get shot  —  are you passionate enough to be okay with that? And are you passionate enough to be willing to spend your lunch hours passionately opening milk cartons and passionately screaming rather than sitting at a table, eating your lunch like an adult human being?

Because that’s passion. That’s commitment to children.

And consider this: If we treated teachers well and paid them according to their roles and responsibilities, how would they be any different from the greedy people in tech, business, law, and medicine? People who not only demand high salaries but who aren’t even willing to buy their own supplies. People who can’t get through an eight-hour day without going to the bathroom.

You may wonder, “Doesn’t anyone care about my academic content knowledge? About my grounding in pedagogy and developmental psychology? About my advanced degrees?”

No. Those things look fine on your résumé, and they’re definitely required to get you in the door, but in the end, we only care about passion. And self-esteem, of course (your students’, not yours).

Let’s face it: Professional preparation can only get you so far. Hiring an expert teacher without the proper amount of passion is like hiring a brain surgeon who is the best and smartest in the world but not very passionate. In both cases, it’s the lack of passion that matters.

Do you think your students will ever remember how to write a complete sentence or multiply seven by three? They won’t — nobody ever needs to do either of those things. What they’ll remember is how much you loved them. They’ll remember your passion.

Right now, when compared to other developed countries, American schoolchildren rank 36 out of 79 in mathematics. That’s above the 50th percentile! Do you think we got that ranking by treating teachers like professionals? We most certainly did not. We’ve achieved that rocking level of success not by funding education or enacting pro-teacher legislation, but by relying solely on passion.

You may be wondering, “But will I at least make enough money to put good meals on the table, to provide for my family, to buy a home?”

No. You can eat your passion, trade your passion for goods and services, and live in a box made of passion.

Alternatively, and if you really still passionately want to be a teacher, you should try to marry someone in tech, business, law, or medicine so that they can support your passion and you, too, can live the American dream.

Good luck out there, and remember: Passion.

Jennie Young, Teacher