Yes, Teacher Appreciation Week is months away--May 6 to the 10th, to be exact—but what better time than right now as the new year unfolds to thank and support our teachers? These under-appreciated folks show up every day to work with our kids and then grade their homework, essays, and tests well into the evening, along with attending countless meetings, tending to lunch, hall, and bus duties, and keeping parents informed about their children’s performance and behavior. As one Dear Abby reader put it, “. . . The demands placed on teachers today are vast and complex. Just getting parents to follow through at home on school responsibilities is a job in itself . . .”
And the criticism grows unabated thanks in large measure to politicians from the federal level on down and entrepreneurs like Microsoft’s Bill Gates. As a result, education reform keeps making headlines, questioning the effectiveness of teachers and versing us all in such terms as Race to the Top, Common Core Standards, tenure, pay-for-performance, No Child Left Behind, NCLB waivers, Adequate Yearly Progress, value-added measures, standardized testing, teaching-to-the test, vouchers, charter schools, turn-around schools, and on and on.
As National Board Certified teacher, author and blogger Bill Ferriter says, "For a long while, education was a noble, well-respected profession--and in a way, that sense of honor and duty has always been its ace-in-the-hole. People are really drawn to the whole 'I may not make a lot of money, but I make a difference' vibe that comes along with working in schools." That's not working out so well anymore, though.
Indeed, teacher morale is reportedly at its lowest point since 1989, this revealed by a recent MetLife Teacher Survey, which also found that:
- More than 50% of teachers noted at least some job reservations.
- About 33% predict they’ll likely leave the profession in the next five years, up from 25% just three years ago.
- About 40% of teachers and parents are pessimistic that student achievement will improve in the coming years “despite the focus on test scores as a primary measure of quality of a teacher’s work.”
- 70% of less satisfied teachers were likelier to report increases in class sizes and students/families needing health or social services.
- 40% of less satisfied teachers had students coming to school hungry.
- More than 75% said their schools underwent budget cuts resulting in layoffs and lost arts, music, and foreign language programs.
The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) put it this way: “Enough is enough! As a nation we say that we value teachers, but the way that we treat them says otherwise . . . The drumbeat of teacher bashing is taking a staggering toll in our schools and classrooms.”
Of that you can be assured, so instead of joining in the chorus of critics who would never themselves dare step into a classroom filled with restless kids and attempt to teach them anything, make it known that you honor the work of your child’s teachers and lend your support. Along with ensuring that homework is completed well every evening, also volunteer your time, go on a field trip or two, and show up punctually for Parent Nights and teacher conferences.
Say thanks every so often, too; no need to wait for the official take on gratitude, Teacher Appreciation Week. Indeed, right here in Montgomery County, there’s much to applaud. Take for instance, North Penn High School’s Michael Voicheck who was named Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year by the Technology & Engineering Education Association of Pennsylvania and Methacton’s Patty McGinnis who was named Animalearn’s 2012 Humane Educator of the Year.
And for test-minded out there, our teachers’ hard work has resulted in lots of wins, starting with Methacton High School’s Neel Mehta who scored a perfect 2400 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)—something accomplished by only 360 of the 1.66 million students who took the exam. Then there’s Spring-Ford Area Senior High’s Amanda Jurewicz who received the only perfect score in the world on the Advanced Placement psychology exam.
Meanwhile, there’s also the Colonial School District’s Ridge Park Elementary which was named a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School. Plus, 100% of its students scored at either the “proficient” or “advanced” level on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA).
I could go on, but you get the idea, so give a frequent shout out to teachers far afield and especially nearby. Kudos and thanks to them all.