As teacher appreciation week comes to an end, I hope that we have all taken some appropriate time to reflect on the role teachers have played in our lives. One week is truly not enough to appreciate all they do, but just a drop in the bucket compared to the appreciation they really deserve.
Teachers are the real unsung heroes of today’s society – the guiding light for our nation’s children, faithfully showing them the way toward opportunities for their futures. For those of you who have ever considered how easy and fun it must be to work with kids, have a day that ends at 3pm, and have school breaks and summers off, think again.
A teacher’s job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Teachers arrive to school early and stay late preparing lesson plans and grading homework, tests, lab reports, and papers. Elementary school teachers are responsible for five detailed lesson plans per day for a group of 25-30 students, while secondary teachers are usually responsible for 2-3 each day for sometimes upwards of 180 students. And if you’ve never had a stack of 180 papers to grade, you have no idea what you’re missing. Sometimes, the weekend isn’t enough time to get it all done, and teachers go into the next week with stacks of work looming over them. And that’s just the academic part of their jobs.
Teachers also must serve as disciplinarians, mentors, and counselors for their students. They establish consistent systems of rules and consequences to motivate their students to work hard, and spend time outside the traditional school day working with kids who are struggling, communicating with their families, and creating individualized plans for students to help them to become more successful.
Outside of their work with their assigned students, teachers are often expected to take on additional responsibilities around the school such as coaching a sport, leading a department, designing an after school activity, conducting review sessions on weekends, and planning trips and events. All of these things are expected by parents when choosing which school to send their students to, and there is no other way to include them all without teachers taking on that additional work.
When summer finally arrives, most teachers have copious amounts of curriculum and planning work to prepare for the following school year, and in many cases they get asked to switch courses or grades an develop entirely new curricula. In some school districts and particularly in charter schools, the summer break tends to only be a couple of weeks before teachers are due back for summer training. Furthermore, those who are lucky enough to have a couple of months off from school usually find it necessary to take on additional work to supplement their low salaries. All the while people are telling them how lucky they are to have summer break and an easy schedule.
Teachers should hardly be described as lucky. They give their lives to educating children because they believe they are doing something good for the world, and WE are lucky that so many are willing to take on such important but thankless work.
So it is up to us, this week and always, to make sure our teachers past and present realize that we are grateful. Try reaching out to a teacher in your life today to say “thank you” — you may be the only person who has thanked them in awhile.