It’s teacher appreciation week and my goodness is it needed! May is a dreadful month for teachers. The sun is coming out but we’re stuck indoors. Exam/assessment stress is at its zenith. The kids are all tired after a long school year and fail to notice that their teachers are too. Being a teacher is hard and people so often fail to notice quite how hard. We all need to give a bit more love and respect to teachers.
I’m feeling particularly sore about this at the moment after a bad rehearsal with my community centre kids. For the last couple of months, they’ve been devising a show. At home, I’ve spent countless hours typing up their ideas into a concise script that’s still flexible enough for them to change and expand on. I was super proud of the result and excited to share it with the kids but when I took it to rehearsal, the sun was out and they didn’t want to be there. Sometimes bad rehearsals happen and I can accept that, but on this occasion, their attitudes stunk! When I explained to them that I had given up my own, unpaid time so they could have a script they were proud of, one student responded, ‘Well I don’t get paid to do my homework.’
My. Blood. Boiled.
My colleagues and I started sharing war stories about times we’ve been really hurt by the lack of appreciation shown to us. Often the things that cut deep only do so because we’re already so worn down by the academic year. But why does teaching take such a toll and why do teachers deserve extra love?
All I ever hear is how great it must be to get all the school holidays off. That’s simply wrong. A teacher’s job does not end when the students leave the classroom. For me, I have research and planning and scriptwriting and emailing parents. Most teachers also have grading on their to-do list, and let’s not forget about all the bureaucracy we deal with. This often means teachers have to work evenings, weekends and throughout half-terms. The summer holiday can be completely taken up by planning or summer school. Some teachers don’t get paid during the summer break which can lead to financial strain or prompt them to take unrelated jobs. Those who do get a true summer break have definitely earned it! In some cases, they’re simply cashing in their overtime. It was recorded by the Trade Union Congress that more than half of all teachers work unpaid overtime in the UK. For primary school teachers, this averages an additional 13 working hours per week. UNPAID! Which leads me on to…
Okay, so teaching is hard. Dealing with kids all day is exhausting. You’re physically and mentally drained by the end of the day but unfortunately, as specified above, the day doesn’t always end there. Even when it does, it doesn’t mean you were paid fairly for your time. Recently, teacher strikes have been sweeping the US in protest of teacher pay raises not keeping up with inflation while insurance costs rise. There was a small victory in West Virginia but there’s still a very long way to go. Vox detailed more clearly the scale of the problem in the US, but teacher’s pay is a growing concern worldwide.
They’re often swimming against the current.
Bureaucracy can be the absolute death of learning. The Independent wrote a really interesting article about how education is used as a political tool in the UK, resulting in schools being micro-managed by the government and an endless stream of new policies and initiatives creating hurdles for teachers. Too much government involvement fails to take into account individual students, demographics and economic factors so no one gets what they really need. Creating a standard policy does not work. Schools are not standard. Children are not standard.
At Silly Fish, we’re not huge fans of standardized testing. Maintaining averages and meeting targets can greatly hinder teachers in doing their job. Sometimes it can be hard to meet a student’s individual needs when they go against the dictated norm. This can be incredibly frustrating for teachers too who are trying to educate their kids to achieve their best in a system that can feel like it’s working against them. Teachers spend every day with individual students and know their individual needs. We need to let teachers do their jobs.
They raise our kids.
Hear me out on this one. Let’s first reiterate that teachers spend every day with their students. I’m not suggesting that parents, on the whole, don’t spend sufficient time with their kids (though of course this sometimes happens) but rather that teachers are overlooked in the raising of children. If you send your child to school, you are entrusting their education to someone. Their education can determine their entire life. If you entrust such an important task to someone, you need to appreciate the job that they’re doing. Not only are they trying to constantly imbue your child with more knowledge, they’re also dealing with behavioral issues and developing their character. They get a lot of the difficult tasks involved with raising a child without much of the fun – unless they create fun with what they’re teaching (which can be hard sometimes). Teachers can inspire our children, encourage them and shape them into the person they’ll become.
They’re an inspiration.
Let’s go a little deeper into how teachers can help shape our students. They inspire them. Can you think of a subject you loved that didn’t have a great teacher behind it, sparking that passion? Can you think of a teacher you loved whose subject you truly hated? A teacher who is passionate about their subject can make you passionate about it. Even Stephen Hawking attributed much of his success to a favorite teacher. Who knows who you could be inspiring every day? You shouldn’t have to wait for the result to get the appreciation.
They’re multi-tasking masters.
This point is basically all the other points together. Let’s think about it for a second… teachers need to be experts in their subject who are constantly learning themselves. They need to be patient and caring in order to help raise a child. They need to jump through hoops to keep the school and government happy. They need to plan, manage their time and reach each individual child in a way they can understand. They need to deal with parent complaints and ungrateful students. Oh, and they need to do all of this while tired from working too much and struggling to manage their personal finances and anything else going on in their lives. And don’t forget they must do it all with a smile!
Without teachers, nothing would ever happen.
To conclude, teachers are superheroes! Really, we owe everything to teachers. Whether that’s a person who is employed as a teacher or not, everything we ever do we were taught. Our society would not exist if knowledge was not passed down on how to run ever faction of it. So please, take a moment to show your gratitude to teachers this week and every week to come!