By: Shaunna Harrington, Ph.D.
Associate Teaching Professor, Northeastern University @shaunna3830
This is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I am sending my deepest gratitude to all teachers for their intelligence, creativity, and compassion, and for their extraordinary work during the pandemic.
Formally designating time in the first week of May to appreciate teachers is a lovely tradition – I have enjoyed both being on the receiving end as a teacher and the giving end as a parent at my daughters’ schools. But if we want to maintain a strong teaching force and bring excellent people into the teaching profession, we need much more than Teacher Appreciation Week to show teachers they are valued.
Only 34% of U.S. teachers believe their profession is valued by society.
That is an alarming and heartbreaking statistic.
It begs the question -- what would it look like if our society truly valued the teaching profession?
Here are some of my suggestions --
Put teachers at the decision-making tables. Make sure they have a strong voice in shaping policies in schools and districts and at the state and federal levels.
Dismantle the standardized testing culture, which diminishes the role of teachers. Recognize teachers as the professionals they are and empower them to make decisions about assessment, instruction, and curriculum.
Recognize the complexity of teaching, and invest in policies and practices that support teachers’ continual learning.
Attend to the social-emotional needs of educators. Even before the pandemic, 6 in 10 teachers rated their job as “highly stressful.”
Disrupt narratives that scapegoat teachers and teacher unions for everything that’s not working well in our schools and our society.
Pay teachers more. Nationally, new teachers make 68% of what the average new graduate makes. And teachers are making less today than they were in the 1990s (when income is adjusted for inflation).
Fully fund our public school system.