May 6th through 10th is Teacher Appreciation Week. We have all heard the various opinions about the world’s other oldest profession: teachers aren’t paid enough; teachers have it easy because they have summers off; teachers put in long hours after the school day ends; teachers don’t work hard enough to engage their students; teachers are the best and the brightest the nation has to offer; teachers are those who’ve failed at everything so they enter the classroom as a last resort.
Yes, depending on who is yapping, the story shifts from praise to blame.
You can’t measure learning like you measure flour to make a cake. No standardized test can gauge the effect of a good teacher on a student. We are talking here about the most crucial role in the building of a future: the vocation of a teacher. To be a good one, you must be smart, quick, savvy, determined, strong, and resilient.
A good teacher knows how to communicate with students. She also knows and loves her subject. Without communication and intellectual skills, or even with one skill in excess, the teacher will fail.
Don’t discount the average, or below average student who becomes a teacher. He knows adversity. He has dealt with failure. Often these underachieving students grow up to be the best teachers because they understand students and their motivations, or lack thereof. They see themselves in the struggling kid at the back of the classroom. They know what buttons to push to fire up a young mind.
So show some respect before the week ends. Teachers have carried the brunt of our anti-intellectual culture of late. All they hear is how they’ve failed in a bankrupt bureaucracy in a culture and country fallen on hard times. It is not parents or students or the idiot culture but the teachers who are always the problem. Yet few people truly understand what it is like to walk into a classroom and hold the attention of 25 students and cajole them into learning something. Teachers work every day to change the world, even though that change may not come to fruition until long after they’ve gone.
Here are some stats about the profession courtesy of the National Center For Education Statistics:
3.7 million people are full time teachers from elementary to high school.
3.3 million teach in public schools and 0.4 million in private institutions.
76 % are female, 24 % are male.
44% are under the age of 40.
52% have master’s or higher degrees.
83% are White, 7% are Black, 7% are Hispanic, 1% are Asian.
$56,069 is the average salary with only 3% growth from 1990-1991 to 2010-2011.
8-9%, on average, leave the profession each year.
27 to 1: pupil/teacher ratio in 1955, 31 to 1 in private schools.
14 to 1 (projected) for 2013, but these numbers are on the rise.
This week and every week, we need to show the love for the men and women inspiring, motivating, enlightening, pushing, teaching our young. In a better world, we would stop funding weapons and wars and instead, put all our money and resources into the classrooms across America. There’s a dream we can all share and work to make true.