Last week, the nation was celebrating teachers. If we lived in a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a Teacher Appreciation Week. Everyone would show appreciation to teachers every day of the year.
I wish everyone had the same opportunity I’ve had to visit schools and teachers across the U.S. and in many other countries. They would quickly understand that our teachers have one of the toughest jobs on the planet and one deserving of our deep appreciation.
While many variables affect student achievement, in my opinion, two stand out. The first is student effort, commitment, and dedication to learn and achieve. This student effort is much more widespread in other parts of the world, notably Southeast Asia and Northern Europe, than it is here. This makes our teachers’ jobs much more difficult.
The second key variable is the quality, knowledge, and attitude of the teacher. A great teacher can overcome many obstacles and inspire students to achieve at high levels. I believe the recruitment, development and on-going support of great teachers is one of our top national priorities if you believe, as I do, that our children are our future.
There are many reasons why parents, community members, and fellow educators should go out of their way, all the time, to show teachers they are appreciated. We are losing about half of all new teachers within five years because of lack of support and appreciation. They often are expected to be social workers, counselors, nurses’ aides, referees, technologists and linguists in addition to imparting knowledge. I wonder if most people realize how difficult this is. On top of all this, teaching is in the early stages of very significant change and our future teachers will need more support than ever. The days of a single teacher standing up in front of 30 students and giving a lesson are over. In the future, teachers will work collaboratively with groups of specialists, aides, volunteers and others to reach each child with the methodology and technology they need to advance. The future teacher will be the chief coordinator of an army of resources from within and outside the school to help inspire students to greater effort and learning.
While we all need to better appreciate our teachers, we should put special emphasis on parental support. Teachers used to be able to count on parents to a greater degree to help and support them with discipline, homework, research and other issues. Parental support and commitment must once again become the norm and not the exception.
In many other countries, people bow or tip their hat when a teacher passes by. While that may not happen here, let’s at least all smile, offer words of support and encouragement, and ask how we can help.