There was a recent story on one of the popular newsfeeds about a teacher protesting the receipt of a plastic zip-close bag, with a note in it that said, “this may be empty, but it is filled with our love.”
It was from the teacher’s administrators.
Each of the teachers received the same “gift” for teachers’ appreciation week. The teachers thought this could be cute coming from a student, but from an administrator, it was just another piece of garbage and a metaphor for what the administration thought of each member of its teaching staff.
Really? Did a school district administration think a zip-close bag with a “generic” note was going to suffice for all the long hours its teachers put in, the money they spent out of pocket for supplies their district can’t or won’t purchase for them, the low salaries they have to accept to try to support their families and the other “other duties as assigned” the districts think appropriate for a teacher to do, yet for which they receive no additional compensation?
According to the website for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2021 median for a high school teacher in America was about $62,000. This means half of the teachers in the nation made more and half made less.
Today, the average teacher salary in Oregon is about $65,000. Salaries can be more or less depending on cost of living, housing, etc. The starting salary for some teachers will be higher depending on education and experience. According to www.edweekly.com, the lowest salary in the nation is offered by Mississippi, which pays its teachers an average salary of $45,000. If a teacher teaches in Alaska or New York, the salary rises to a little over $77,000.
My best friend, Helen, was a teacher in Washington state for 35 years. She retired last year and has not looked back. During COVID, she was putting in 17-hour days. Her only day off, when she wasn’t consumed with class work or preparation, was Saturday. And there was always something coming down the pike, some change in curriculum, some change in how to do things on a whim from her administration. All this, and more, are what made an outstanding teacher leave the job she was passionate about.
Teachers don’t usually leave because of salary. They leave because of lack of support from parents and administrators; they leave because of lack of support for special-needs children in their classroom; they leave because of the way their students treat them in class with insults, bullying, physical violence, and the list goes on. No one should be afraid to go to work. Is it any wonder there is a teacher shortage in this country? And, no, this may not be the case in Wallowa County, but it does happen in other school districts.
There are those who will say, well, that goes with the territory, just suck it up and move on if you don’t like what you have to do.
If only it were that simple.
We entrust our children’s education to our teachers. They are teaching the next generation the basics of how to be a good citizen and a good human being. Would we say the same thing to our police officers, deputies, firefighters, doctors, etc.? If you don’t like the prospect of getting shot at, and maybe dying, or if you don’t like getting up at 3 a.m. to deliver a baby, or helping a cow deliver a calf in the freezing cold, go get another job?
I doubt it. There’s that issue of money invested in an education, the issue of passion — of doing what you want to do with your life — and of treating someone with dignity and respect. Teachers need and deserve our respect, appreciation and admiration. And, yes, I was a teacher, so I know what I’m talking about.
Therefore, during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 8-12, I challenge every parent and school administrator to show their appreciation of our teachers. It could be a coffee bar, a shorter staff meeting, lunch ordered in for them, a batch of cookies, or a personal note to each of them telling them the qualities you admire most about them, and thanking them for all they do. It will mean more than you can ever know.
And, hopefully, you will find some other vehicle to deliver your note than a zip-close bag.
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