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Often, the stories about teachers that are told the most are of educators working against the odds or persevering through difficult conditions for their students. Raising money when their districts are underfunded, acting as unofficial translators or art teachers when their schools lack those roles, finding creative solutions when they have insufficient instructional materials - the list goes on.
These are all incredible feats and shouldn’t go unappreciated, but it’s time to change the narrative. When we praise educators for innovative problem solving, we’re also allowing more systemic problems to go unsolved and leaving the burden with them.
This year, let’s go beyond appreciation and commit to the following four actions that can elevate the working conditions of teachers to the level they deserve.
Teachers are professionals at their craft and should be treated as such in the workplace by colleagues, district administrators and student families. Leadership can foster this culture by encouraging their autonomy in classrooms, offering leadership opportunities, and elevating teacher voice in meetings with stakeholders. Educators should have the opportunity to weigh in on school/district wide decisions such as selecting new curriculum and planning yearly PD topics. We can also push for higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions so educators are fairly compensated for their expertise.
We place high expectations on the student outcomes that educators are expected to achieve, but in order to successfully meet these they need adequate resources and appropriate supplies. When teachers lack the materials they need, they are forced to spend their own time and money supplementing. Supplying all educators with diverse books and culturally responsive materials, differentiated resources, technology, hands-on learning materials and more will enable them to do their job effectively.
Amidst rigorous standards, frequent assessment cycles, prepping, planning, and grading, time is the most valuable resource in most educators’ days. They spend the majority of their paid working hours teaching, and utilize the remaining time for their overflowing list of to-dos above - so it is crucial that this time be protected. Districts can use solutions like asynchronous PD opportunities, protecting time for collaboration and prep periods, and automating when possible so teachers can spend less time creating. Ensuring that educators are given adequate time during their workday to accomplish what they need to can prevent burnout and promote work/life balance - the same way that we do for most corporate 9-5 fields of work.
Too often, we “praise” educators as being selfless, prioritizing their students over their own needs, or even as superheroes. While this may be well intended, it often leads to teachers working far beyond their capacity and doing additional work in order to meet these unspoken (and uncompensated) expectations. Most would agree that teaching is one the most challenging roles in our society as it is; educators shouldn’t have to go “above and beyond” the call of duty to be doing invaluable and praise worthy work.
So this year let’s remember to show and tell our gratitude to all the amazing teachers in our lives by advocating for them to have the working conditions they deserve.
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