We love and appreciate teachers. With rare exception they work hard, do a great job, and receive little thanks for it.
In certain places in the Middle East, schools use shame to motivate students and parents. It works. Teachers have an immense amount of power in the community. Parents can be berated by the teacher if their children are not doing as well as others. The children can be berated for not measuring up. Parent-teacher meetings are very intimidating because no one knows if they will be the target of the teacher's ire that day. They have to quietly endure whatever the teacher says.
Fortunately, teachers in America don't wield that kind of power, nor do they want to. What they do is continue to make every effort for the benefit of their students while society has rendered them near powerless and subjected them to the whims of an ever-changing political environment.
A middle school or high school teacher can have 180 students a day. An elementary teacher has 30-35 students and might teach 5-7 subjects every day. Teachers often get into school early and leave late. They take work home and labor into the night. Weekends are not always their own because they are planning the next week, grading papers and essays, generating tests, logging grades, and writing to parents. Most of us have no concept how much effort it requires to read 180 biographical essays on Abraham Lincoln written by 7th graders, and be ok with it? Teachers are not complaining. Ok, maybe a little.
Teachers paint, decorate and try to produce a creative classroom environment for their students - all at their own expense. And they do it every year. I know a teacher who needed a small, simple table to enable them sit in front of their class. But the district won't supply such an ostentatious purchase. So fortunately, another teacher who had found something at a Goodwill got it and gave it to them.
Bureaucrats have made the schoolroom more difficult (an intentional understatement); tying their hands with standardized testing, which dominates curriculum development and threatens raises and jobs; a new no-zero policy; open dates to submit assignments anytime without consequence; little ability to correct rowdy and disobedient kids; and lest we forget, parents who blame the teacher for their student's low grades instead of the student, and themselves.
So, after saddling our teachers with low wages, little support (I'm not speaking of school principles who try their best to support their teachers), political shackles, and removing many teaching tools, we get to blame them, and especially the principles, for declining standardized test results and students coming out of the process unprepared for the future.
In a day when education is supposedly all about encouragement and positive reinforcement, it should surprise us that teachers are losing their passion for teaching and school districts simultaneously suffering teacher shortages.
But the teachers we have, they keep showing up. They face 93% of the students in this nation every day with the hope that today, they will make a difference. Of course, if we keep treating them like we do, how can they still care in 20 years?
We all know that the system is broken and in need of an overhaul, a big one. We know that the educational system must begin a migration to actual, not artificial, personal learning methods to truly engage and prepare the children of today for tomorrow, especially in underserved communities.
Let's start by thanking our teachers and appreciating them for for doing their job. Let's stop getting in their way and call on our politicians to do the same. Let's do something new: help them do their job and compensate them with an actual living wage. We know this is a decade worth of changes. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money. I'll end by sounding just like Captain Obvious. The next decade starts today, and our kids are worth it.