Yes, Teacher Appreciation Week is months away–May 6 to the 10th, to be exact—but what better time than right now as the new year unfolds to thank and support our teachers? These under-appreciated folks show up every day to work with our kids and then grade their homework, essays, and tests well into the evening, along with attending countless meetings, tending to lunch, hall, and bus duties, and keeping parents informed about their children’s performance and behavior. As one Dear Abby reader put it, “. . . The demands placed on teachers today are vast and complex. Just getting parents to follow through at home on school responsibilities is a job in itself . . .”

Yet the criticism grows unabated thanks in some measure to politicians from the federal level on down and entrepreneurs like Microsoft’s Bill Gates. As a result, education reform keeps making headlines, questioning the effectiveness of teachers and versing us all in such terms as Race to the Top, Common Core Standards, tenure, pay-for-performance, No Child Left Behind, NCLB waivers, Adequate Yearly Progress, value-added measures, standardized testing, teaching-to-the test, vouchers, charter schools, turn-around schools, and on and on.

As National Board Certified teacher, author and blogger Bill Ferriter says, “For a long while, education was a noble, well-respected profession–and in a way, that sense of honor and duty has always been its ace-in-the-hole. People are really drawn to the whole ‘I may not make a lot of money, but I make a difference’ vibe that comes along with working in schools.” That’s not working out so well anymore, though.

Indeed, teacher morale is reportedly at its lowest point since 1989, this revealed by a recent MetLife Teacher Survey, which also found that:

  • More than 50% of teachers noted at least some job reservations.
  • About 33% predict they’ll likely leave the profession in the next five years, up from 25% just three years ago.
  • About 40% of teachers and parents are pessimistic that student achievement will improve in the coming years “despite the focus on test scores as a primary measure of quality of a teacher’s work.”
  • 70% of less satisfied teachers were likelier to report increases in class sizes and students/families needing health or social services.
  • 40% of less satisfied teachers had students coming to school hungry.
  • More than 75% said their schools underwent budget cuts resulting in layoffs and lost arts, music, and foreign language programs.

The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) put it this way: “Enough is enough! As a nation we say that we value teachers, but the way that we treat them says otherwise . . . The drumbeat of teacher bashing is taking a staggering toll in our schools and classrooms.”

Of that you can be assured, so instead of joining in the chorus of critics who would never themselves dare step into a classroom filled with restless kids and attempt to teach them anything, make it known that you honor the work of your child’s teachers and lend your support. Along with ensuring that homework is completed well every evening, also volunteer your time, go on a field trip or two, and show up punctually for Parent Nights and teacher conferences.

Say thanks every so often, too; no need to wait for the official take on gratitude, Teacher Appreciation Week.