There are few professions out there that have greater significance than that of a teacher. Doctors, lawyers, grocery store clerks, inventors, politicians, bankers, scientists, even YouTube sensations (yes, I said it) began their learning journey with a teacher who started them down their path. So, why is it becoming increasingly difficult to justify the worth of our most prized asset – educators? If we truly value our teachers, we would make sure we’re taking care of them.
I just recently stumbled across an article titled: ‘I Didn’t Know It Had a Name’: Secondary Traumatic Stress and Educators. And another: The Epidemic of Teacher Stress. And another: Why Teachers Quit. I even came across this – a tool to assess how close one is to “teacher burnout”. Really?! And the facts don’t lie. If you’re a numbers person – the stats on teachers leaving the profession are staggering. If you’re a words person, ask any teacher if their profession is stressful, or if they feel overworked and undervalued — and their response will probably make any non-teacher glad they chose a different career.
So, what can we do to change this? Some would argue the obvious answer involves a discussion on politics and government spending — and for now I’m going to leave that one alone. But, I do think we can do several small things that can have a big impact if we choose to take a stand for our teachers.
Re-ignite That Fire!
Almost every teacher out there went into the profession because they have a passion for teaching students. They want to make a difference. Let’s do things to re-ignite this passion and encourage their calling. Reach out to a teacher, ask them what you can do, and find ways to make it happen. If you are a teacher, reach out to a colleague and do the same. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give is simply to listen, validate, and promote the hard work we are doing in our classrooms each and every day.
Share the Love
It’s difficult to find a teacher who self-promotes the good work they are doing. So, let’s do it for them. I remember after my fourth year of teaching, our small school district was facing a big change – a new superintendent. As a district, we were also facing some tough times financially, so it was decided that a few teachers were going to get “pink-slipped”.
Being one of the newest staff members, I was terrified. I feared my superintendent didn’t know me or my work. Several days later, I received a phone call from him. I was shaking. To my surprise, he was simply calling about a note he had received from one of my past student’s parents. In that letter, the family explained their appreciation for the work I had done with their son. In my time of panic, it was that note that gave me a sense of peace and validation. A simple letter that meant so much. So, if you see a teacher doing a good job, share it with someone that matters. By spreading a positive message, we are validating the hard work and dedication that our teachers put forth every day.
With school funding continually getting cut in one way or another, the biggest gift we can give doesn’t require any money at all. It’s simply the gift of time. Whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, a business owner, or a community member, schools are generally seeking out those of us who are willing to jump in and volunteer. Not only does this provide teachers and students with additional help, it will give you insight into the work, the obstacles, and the rewards that teaching brings. And there is no better way to truly understand how impactful and how critical their job is until you experience it yourself.
Be their advocate, be their biggest fan, and find ways to take a stand for teachers and the crucial work they are doing in developing the people who will one day run this place. By advocating for our teachers, we are advocating for so much more.