There was something extra special about last week’s Teacher Appreciation celebrations.
As an educator, I had the opportunity to work with some great classroom teachers during my career. But given what teachers have endured over the last three years, my respect and admiration have been elevated to a whole new level.
If there was ever a time we as a community should be showing our gratitude for the dedication and hard work of our teachers, it is now.
Last week we saw and heard of some wonderful acts of appreciation and celebration in schools, not just in Shelby County but across the nation.
We sometimes forget just how valuable our teachers are. They are arguably the most important members of our society. Teachers are indispensable role models for our children and often are the inspiration children need to go further and dream bigger.
Today’s children are our leaders of tomorrow, and their leadership abilities are shaped and molded by the teachers they interact with daily.
There always was an exceptional teacher who impacted my life at every level of my educational experience.
When I was a sophomore in college, my English professor asked me to meet with her after class to discuss a paper I had written.
She talked about my writing and showed me the corrections I needed to make. She told me how much she enjoyed reading my paper and called me a “Renaissance” man.
At the time, I had no idea what she meant by that, but after looking up the word renaissance in the dictionary, it took me over a week to calm down and erase the smile on my face.
Many educators view teaching as a “calling,” not just a job. A paycheck is not the most important thing. They do the work because they have a passion for youth and genuine love for the field of education.
Great teachers are dedicated professionals, shown by their ’round-the-clock work habits. Many arrive early at the schoolhouse and stay late.
They usually are grading papers, developing lesson plans, and communicating with parents after school and on weekends.
But teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate. The stress of the pandemic, along with other formidable challenges, has taken its toll.
Burnout and low pay have always been an issue with teacher retention.
After nationwide school closures during the spring of 2020, schools reopened in the fall using combinations of hybrid, in-person, and remote learning models. As a result, teachers had to adapt in unprecedented ways.
Some teachers went back to in-person learning during the height of the pandemic, which added to their stress and other health concerns.
I’m still in awe of what teachers were able to accomplish as the pandemic raged on.
But these conditions and concerns continue to fuel an increase in teacher turnover and a growing teacher shortage nationwide.
The challenges of teaching in today’s classrooms, from kindergarten to college, are formidable under any circumstances.
Teachers today find it difficult to stay motivated and inspired. Many still struggle with their own well-being and work/life balance.
Recent studies, however, suggest that “workload” is the biggest reason for teachers leaving the profession.
But despite the stress and the challenges, teachers continue to persevere.
Teachers have seen it all over the last few years, and the money they make falls woefully short of the value they provide.
Whenever we get the chance to show our appreciation, we should do so in a manner befitting the job and their responsibilities, which are great.
So, to all the great teachers out there, THANK YOU for the work you do with our youth and their families.
Thank you for your leadership and encouragement to our children during the most challenging times.
Thank you for the hard work and dedication you provided during the height of the pandemic. We will never forget the sacrifices you made and your efforts to ensure that our children continued to learn and were safe while doing so.
And lastly, thank you for being a role model and an inspiration to scores of children and colleagues who admire your work.
Never forget, you are loved and appreciated by so many.
(Follow me, TSD’s education columnist, on Twitter @curtisweathers. Email me at [email protected].)