How To Best AppreciateYour Teacher

Remembering our educators this week and beyond

5/10/20243 min read

red apple fruit on four pyle books
red apple fruit on four pyle books

              Today is the last day of teacher appreciation week and all over the country teachers will be having donuts and coffee sponsored by the PTA. The lucky ones may even get a lunch spread. And these are important. Teaching is such an undervalued, underpaid job. I spent about two and a half minutes teaching and quickly found that I did not have what it takes. Students can be difficult to deal with and many parents are not supportive. The list of tasks from the administration and the school boards grows longer and longer by the day. I quickly discovered that I was not up to the job and that it was not worth pursuing despite the money and time I had put into getting a master's degree.

              We tend to forget this about teachers. We forget that they are degreed professionals and that they make far less than others with the same level of education. All but three states (Connecticut, Maryland, and New York) have lifted the master's degree requirement for teachers as recruitment and retainment was too difficult. Despite this, teachers earn far less than others with similar educational requirements. The chart below from a 2022 Economic Policy Institute publication found that teachers earn 23.5% less than other college graduates.

              So, despite no longer requiring a master's degree, we continue to have a teacher shortage, which has only worsened since COVID. Teachers often have to sub during their planning periods and have less than 20 minutes to eat at their desks during lunch; are required to plan, grade, and attend meetings, among thousands of other tasks like calling parents and responding to e-mails outside of their paid hours; and are expected to spend their own money to set up their classroom and to ensure that their students have what they need to learn.

              All the while students and parents are becoming increasingly disrespectful. It seems like we are constantly hearing about another school shooting on the news. Teachers are expected to lead active shooter drills, and many have sacrificed their own lives to keep their students safe. So, this week, when we are examining what we can do to appreciate teachers, I ask you to remember that this need for appreciation extends far beyond this week.

              What is the best way we can appreciate these poor underappreciated professionals? VOTE. Vote for representatives who actually care about educators and education and do not just use them as a speaking point during elections and then forget them until the next election cycle. Who will actually have answers for the teacher shortage and will pay teachers something resembling what they are worth.

              Vote for people who want to make real change. For people who will raise teacher salaries and treat them as the professionally educated persons they are. Vote to reduce classes to more manageable sizes. Vote for gun control so that our students and teachers do not have to worry every time they hear a car backfire.

              Vote so that teachers do not have to police their students' sexuality and measure their uniform skirts. So that they can provide a safe space for students to be themselves.

Vote for a school system in which students are allowed to read and learn. Where school librarians do not have to fear losing their jobs (or in some areas, actual imprisonment) if they have a book on the shelves that a parent may disagree with. I think we all heard about parents in Florida trying to ban the dictionary because of profanity, but according to the American Library Association, other books among the top 10 that have been banned include modern classics such as “The Hate U Give”, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, “Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl”, and even the Toni Morrison classic “The Bluest Eye” as well as a book for teenagers about puberty and sexuality “Let’s Talk About it: The teen’s guide to sex, relationships, and being human.”

              I certainly don’t want to minimize the importance of remembering our teachers this week. They deserve all the bagels, taco bars, and Starbucks gift cards that we can give. But it is even more important to remember them (and their students) every November, especially this year when so much of our future and out children’s futures hang precariously in the balance.