Teachers deserve more appreciation

Vivian Paley is kindergarten teacher, former MacArthur genius grant winner, and prolific author. Here she is surrounded by children at the kindergarten classroom at the Bret Harte Elementary School, a public school, in Hyde Park, Illinois (BY ALEX GARCIA/CHICAGO TRIBUNE Nov. 23, 2004).

Performing artists get their fair share of awards. Between the Grammys, the Oscars, the Tonys and the Emmys, those who contribute to pop culture are presented with hundreds of awards and are recognized regularly for their achievements.

If we were in the habit of presenting all professionals with awards, the “Most Underappreciated” award would go, no contest, to American teachers.

Educators deserve more respect. Unlike performing artists, who simply provide entertainment, teachers perform the very best of community service and are responsible for nurturing and encouraging some of our brightest minds: doctors, lawyers, engineers, astronauts, researchers and so on.

Teaching is the essence of all other professions, and yet little credit is given to those who dedicate their lives to the education of others. Unfortunately, teachers are underappreciated, underpaid and, perhaps most insulting of all, not respected.

This lack of respect towards educators is present at every level, but especially when it comes to how they are compensated. In 2012, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Senate Bill 1040, which made life a lot harder for teachers. As per the new law, Michigan teachers are now required to pay 20 percent into their health care premium and pay more into their retirement funds, all while shouldering cuts to their wages.

There is also an utter lack of appreciation from parents. Teachers, contrary to what some believe, are not in the business of raising children. Teachers nurture, support and encourage their students.
They are invested in their students and are thrilled when students succeed in grasping a difficult concept. But they cannot do the parents’ job too. If it is hard to raise one or two kids, imagine raising 25 of them. Cut teachers some slack.

Sadly, many students themselves have a complete disregard for teachers. Many of us have never stopped to think about what a challenging job it is to teach. Similar to medical doctors, teachers have to undergo rigorous coursework, get exposure to their field through student teaching and pass a state-licensing exam before they are allowed to teach in a classroom.

When they do enter the field, they are presented with challenge after challenge, all of a unique sort. Aside from the act of teaching itself, teachers also must know how to approach issues ranging from preventing bullying to helping students who are being abused.

As highly educated professionals who are working every day of the school year toward educating the next generation of society, teachers deserve a lot more respect, appreciation and compassion.

Remember the impact your favorite teacher had on you, and reflect on how that teacher helped you reach your goals. Perhaps a teacher even helped mold you into the person you are today. A little appreciation goes a long way. Thank her for her help, kindness and patience, for as the Arabic proverb goes, “I am forever indebted to anyone who taught me even a letter.”

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