As you may or may not know, this week is Teachers Appreciation Week across the country. All this week, people will offer their facetious thanks to teachers, without really meaning it or really considering the immense amount of work teachers physically do, and the amount of personal sacrifice it takes for one to actually be a teacher, I believe there are very few professions in America that get treated as poorly as teachers do. In other countries, educators are treated with the utmost of respect both by students and the general public. Instead, teachers in the United States are called lazy, teachers unions which have helped secure higher wages and better working conditions are continuously assaulted, and politicians who have never stepped foot in a classroom remain insistent that they know what is best for America’s youth.
Being a teacher is no easy task. The misconception is that the teacher shows up 10 months of the year, cashes his/her paychecks, all the students do what the teacher asks, and the teacher ends up living like a king during summer vacation. Teachers earn that summer vacation. Consider the fact that teachers often arrive to work an hour or two before most people, will leave the school an hour or two after the kids leave, and then spend time at home lesson planning, grading, or preparing for the next day’s lesson. Preparing for the next day’s lesson might include creating a worksheet by hand, buying materials using their own money, or painstakingly agonizing over a textbook with head in hands wondering how to make certain material relevant and interesting for a group of students. In summary, teachers will usually work a 12 hour day, five days a week, and if it’s a good teacher, chances are they’re doing work on weekends too just to be ready to go on Monday.
A teacher’s job, especially here in Philadelphia, is extremely difficult. Actual teaching often takes a backseat to being a counselor, a sympathetic ear, a security guard, a disciplinarian, a punching bag, and most of all, a selfless human-being. Imagine standing in front of a room of 35 students, all of which have different needs, different upbringings, different life experiences, different cultural and racial backgrounds, and trying to make all of them care about something that in the back of your head you know is something they’ll never use in real life. Meanwhile, the teacher, who puts forth all this energy and effort, gets paid very little (in some states teacher salaries average as low as $24,000) and has to deal with parents who think their child is always right and the teacher is always wrong, and people who will always think of them as lazy. The people who criticize teachers have never spent a day inside the classroom. It takes an extraordinary amount of selfless sacrifice to earn very little while trying to help OTHER people’s kids become successful and productive members of society. That fact should never be lost on people, yet it always is.
I know that high school sucked. I know that teachers got on your nerves growing up because you felt like you knew everything and the teachers got in the way of what you were trying to do. However, think of where your life would be without the generous individuals who dedicated their life to helping you become a better person. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of shitty teachers out there. But for every one shitty teacher, there’s at least 4-5 who are fantastic individuals who really do care. This week is for them. Please use this week as an opportunity to think about that one (or more) teachers who truly made a difference on your education or even your life. That teacher who talked you through a difficult time in your life, or helped you understand something you weren’t getting. Think of the teacher who would be nice to you when no one else would be. Take time out of your week this week to send that teacher an email to thank them for their sacrifice and let them know how much their sacrifice meant to you.
I work in the education field. You’re not getting in anyone’s way by doing this. It is the best feeling in the world to know that someone out there really did appreciate all the hard-work that was put in; that all of the headaches and effort was worth it. Appreciate your teachers, and lets make sure these wonderful individuals remain appreciated regardless of what week it is.