Every May, Teacher Appreciation Week comes around, five days set aside once a year to recognize the work of educators. But is it enough? I mean, really…

When the Pandemic hit, teachers were applauded for transitioning from in-person to remote teaching; everyone was in awe, especially parents. Then tasked with home schooling, they  collectively experienced an Ah-ha moment, their eyes opened to the realization that teaching ain’t easy, that it’s an art that takes a whole lot of expertise, patience, and caring. Many found it daunting–and they only had to deal with their own kid(s), not a classroom full of other peoples’ kids…

As 2021 unfolded, however, the applause died down and up went the fault-finding, the burnout, the resignations, and teacher shortages. That continues as this school year closes out. Indeed, according to the Economic Policy Institute, back in 2018, we were short some 110,000 teachers and that may hit 200,000 by 2025.

Among those who have already quit: Takeru Nagayoshi, an award-winning Advanced Placement Teacher and Massachusetts’s 2020Teacher of the Year.

Should we be surprised? Not according to January’s Merrimack College Teacher Survey of 1,300+ teachers, which replaced the 2012-ending MetLife Survey of the the American Teacher. Among the findings:

  • 56% are satisfied with their jobs, but just 12% are “very satisfied,” down from 39% in 2012 and an all-time low.
  • More than 50% don’t feel respected by the general public; just 46% feel respected as professionals. In 2011, 77% felt respected.
  • Just 26% think their salaries are fair; 23% say they’re unfair, and 56% “strongly agree” that they’re unfair.

According to the National Education Association, in 2020-21, the average teacher salary was $65,000, with New York the highest at $87,738 and Mississippi’s the lowest at $47,655.

The survey also found that:

  1. The typical teacher puts in 54 hours a week working, but just 25 of those hours are spent in actual teaching. As for the rest:
    • 5 hours are spent planning lessons
    • 5 hours are spent grading papers
    • 3 hours are spent planning with colleagues
    • 2 hours are spent communicating with parents
    • 1 hour is spent on school committee work
    • 1 hour is spent on professional development
    • I hour is spent on non-curricular activities, such as sports and clubs
    • 2 hours are spent on miscellaneous tasks
  1. Meanwhile, 93% rely on their fellow school colleagues; 77% turn to colleagues in other schools
  2. Most want more time to spend in actual teaching and less dealing with data and test scores.

On top of it all, their plates overflow with ongoing and/or new demands, everything from providing social and emotional learning and character development to the growing numbers of special needs and non-English speaking students in their classrooms and getting entangled in the culture wars.

So, this time around, at the very least, say thank you and do it often. And remember that a thank-you note goes a long way–a hand-written one, not a text or email.  And tell your kids to  give thanks, too, showing it by being attentive, respectful, and hard working.

With thanks, Carol