We are celebrating teachers this “teacher appreciation week” as we do each year, with luncheons in schools and discounts in certain stores and restaurants. These things are very much appreciated, but what teachers really need is the respect and support of their administration and community. For years people have tried to figure out why a large number of teachers leave after their first year in the classroom. Let me paint a picture for you.
My first year of teaching was for an administration that didn’t give much credence to “special education.” They were annoyed that a special needs class was foisted upon them, and had no intention of making it easy for the teacher...a very young me. My classroom was literally a former supply closet that was split in two by a moveable bookcase. I was teaching on one side while the art teacher held her classes on the other. There were no supplies, no support, no air conditioning and no cross ventilation...not conducive to good teaching in South Florida. I made it through the year, and in fact my students succeeded beyond expectations, but I left to raise my family and didn’t think that I would ever return to a profession that disrespected me so thoroughly.
My daughter’s first year was equally shattering. Her department head berated her constantly, and the administration never followed through on the mentoring she was promised. Her students loved her, and that annoyed the older teachers even more. By the time June came, she walked out vowing that she would never return.
My sister’s first year as a teacher was in an inner city elementary school in Atlanta. She was given a whistle to wear around her neck and told to blow it if a parent came in with a weapon. Her supplies were limited and her salary was ridiculously low. She remained there three years because she was supporting her family as her husband finished dental school, but she left teaching when he graduated.
My sister-in-law went back for her teaching degree when she was in her thirties, and was thrilled to get her first teaching job upon graduation. The students were so rough, and her support was so non-existent, that she almost had a nervous breakdown. She left after her first year and never returned.
My sister, daughter and I were teachers at heart and all returned to the classroom when we were mature enough to work past the problems. Eventually we were all lucky enough to find excellent Principals who appreciated our talents, but the system continued working against us.
Yes, there are many reasons that Teacher’s leave the classroom. Lack of respect from parents, students and administrators takes its toll, and when you couple that with a salary so low that the average teacher can not qualify for a mortgage, it is difficult to convince young people to stay. Factor in challenging working conditions (overcrowded classrooms and a severe lack of supplies) and unrealistic expectations, and we lose the best and the brightest in droves.
Still, as you walk the halls of almost any school in America, you can peer into the classroom and see men and women giving their all to classrooms crowded with children. They stay because they were born to teach. They stay because they love your children. They stay because someone has to care enough.
I, for one, would like to take this week to say that I appreciate the work that Teacher’s do and the caring that they show to our children, every day of the year.
The book I read and reviewed this week was true escapism. The 17th Suspect (The Women’s Murder Club) by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro definitely gets a thumbs up from me.
As always, a complete review of this book follows my blog.