Last week, Dan Rather, in his weekly post to his Substack community said this:
“…despite all of this dysfunction, education remains one of our greatest hopes. Teachers heroically forge onward despite the challenges — inspiring young minds, percolating new ideas, and fostering energy for a better and more just nation.”
At the end of another academic year, under trying circumstances, I believe we need to acknowledge, honor and celebrate teachers who have stayed the course, and labored on, doing what they love because of who they are. Many who feel exhausted, burned out and discouraged are leaving the profession. That saddens me because I know a few of them who are outstanding teachers, beloved by their students and colleagues and their departure is a loss to the profession. However, I am encouraged by a new generation of emerging young teachers who are inspired, committed and dedicated to devoting their lives to an even younger cohort of students.
Teaching is a noble and awesome profession. I have written previously about teaching and why we teach and said that “we teach, not because we can’t do something else but of all the things we could do, we choose this act of teaching, this commitment and dedication to kids and families and schools and communities….. to help people to value themselves and others, and help them learn how to live productive, constructive, creative lives”
Teaching is much more than an occupation. It is a vocation, not merely a job, but a calling, a kind of ministry to the developmental needs and interests of young people. While teaching is full of challenges and obstacles that range from being underfunded, under resourced and under appreciated, the rewards come in seeing students become enthusiastically engaged in their own learning and wanting to learn more, do more and be more than who they are at any moment in time.
Teaching is a profession that requires a range of skills dealing with a myriad of different personalities, behaviors and values. There is a focus on helping students develop their cognitive abilities while also attending to their physical, social and emotional needs as they are all interdependent and affect each other in different ways. A curriculum that is comprehensive, age-appropriate, integrated and performance based covers an array of subjects from language, social studies, mathematics, science, technology, and the arts. The expectations and standards for high quality teachers require a commitment to continued professional development while maintaining an interactive classroom and laboratory/studio environment.
It is time we find more and better ways to elevate the status of this profession of teaching and here are three suggestions:
1 – Pay teachers more in commensurate with other professions that have similar requirements such as medicine, law, and engineering. Increase both their compensation and benefits significantly.
2 – Recruit talented students to consider teaching as a challenging and rewarding profession.
3 – Profile and publicize teachers in your communities who are outstanding in their work and accomplishments, who are “inspiring young minds, percolating new ideas, and fostering energy for a better and more just nation.”