Supporting and Respecting Public School Teachers
December 8, 2011
As State Superintendent, I try to visit schools and classrooms whenever I get the opportunity. It is incredibly important for me to see state policy at work in our schools and districts. As I travel across the state, I always enjoy talking with principals, teachers and support staff regarding how their jobs are going. But even though I find myself on the road quite a bit, I don't get into schools as much as I would like, which is why I asked teachers through my biweekly email newsletter, to let me know what was on their minds.
Through all the varied responses I received, there was an underlying theme to the vast majority: a perceived lack of respect for teachers and the teaching profession. I know that some of us have felt disrespected by our bosses and coworkers. But teachers are feeling disrespected from a number of quarters, including students, parents, the school community, legislators and the news media.
The public school budget has taken quite a hit over the past few years. This trend looks to continue this year as the state's economy continues to be weak. Teachers are feeling overworked, underpaid and underappreciated.
Even though the resources to support struggling students have significantly diminished, the demand to ensure that all students are proficient and working at grade level remains the same. Textbooks are in short supply. Technology updates have been placed on the back burner. Funds for basic classroom supplies are short. Increased class sizes have made individual attention to students more difficult. Workdays for professional development and collaboration and planning with other teachers have been further reduced.
Teachers want to feel valued and compensated through policy changes that improve their working conditions and create balanced workloads. It is no secret that a teacher's salary has never been a pathway to get rich quick, and those of us who became teachers knew this at the time. Nonetheless, teachers deserve reasonable compensation, respect for their contributions to our society and professional courtesy.
As State Superintendent, I appreciate what they have told me and will continue to advocate on their behalf. Teachers have a significant impact on students' lives and our state's and nation's future. They deserve our full support and respect.
June St. Clair Atkinson