"We love our teachers!" As a former teacher, I would often see this sentiment expressed. Annually, during teacher appreciation week, at the beginning of the school year as a kind of pep rally for teachers, AND when some group or groups wanted to use teachers as collateral in some kind of political battle. I am not saying that there are not people who genuinely believe in and love teachers. However, I believe "love" is an action, a behavior. HOW have teachers been shown they are loved?
The teachers with whom I have spoken are frustrated. A number have left the profession or moved on to alternative paths in order to be able to practice the profession they love. If we truly love our teachers, are we willing to listen to them? Are we asking them about their concerns? Are we asking them what resources they need? Are we asking what we can do to help? Are we talking to them at all? What I am hearing most frequently is that there is a significant lack of discipline in their classrooms. Teachers will send disruptive students from their classrooms only to have them return and continue their disruptive behavior unfazed. In addition, many teachers are experiencing extremely disrespectful behavior. I am pretty sure that does not equate with "loving" our teachers.
I am a huge parental rights advocate. However, parents have not only rights, but also responsibilities. Parents need to address their children's inappropriate behavior for the sake of their children's own education AND because inappropriate, disruptive, and disrespectful behavior steals education from other people's children. I raised four sons. When my sons behaved inappropriately (as kids will do sometimes), I addressed their behavior. I did not take it as a personal affront or a criticism of my parenting skills simply because someone dared to criticize one of my children. Did I always agree? No. But I did respond with respect. I have seen in my own family what happens when parents shield their children from all consequences. Multiple stints in jail, failed relationships, inability to keep a job, homelessness, and, unfortunately, early death.
Another concern is the amount of work placed on teachers. Teachers are required to not only teach but also address all the social ills that the state, district, and society at large has decided is part of their teaching responsibilities. They have to fit all that within the school day. Their planning periods, which are generally 45-55 minutes long, were meant to provide them a set time to plan lessons, make copies, grade papers, provide student feedback, and contact parents. Often that time is taken away when teachers are required to cover other teachers' classes and/or complete office tasks and extra-curricular activity work during that time. Teachers are also required to cover duty posts at various times of the day. Some teachers are given no lunch breaks during the week as they are assigned lunch duty every single day. There has been, for a very long time, an expectation that teachers complete work on their own time, essentially without additional compensation. Yet, they do it.
My purpose here is not to criticize any specific person or school. If we were to survey the American teacher, we would find these issues are pretty universal. My point is that placing a "We love teachers" sign in our yards or on our billboards might make us feel better, but is that enough? If we really love our teachers, we will begin by helping relieve some of the burdens that have been placed upon them so that they can focus on what they, and we, want...to educate our children.