A new school year is approaching rapidly. Kids are out scrounging for the school supplies on their classroom lists. It’s a list that becomes pretty costly for the families with more than one child and with the prospect of buying new clothes and shoes looming in the background. From backpacks to disinfecting wipes to highlighters, the lists seem to become longer every year. When I was a kid, I needed a binder, some folders, pencils, erasers, notebook paper, a lunchbox, and a case of some sort to put it all in. My parents didn’t have to supply things like Kleenex or hand sanitizer for the classroom. Those were the days when we got a book in every class that we took home to do homework and spent time covering with a brown paper bag to protect it from abuse. All of our learning tools were supplied by the school. Not the teacher. The school from its yearly budget. That’s unheard of today.
Somehow, the teachers now have to spend money out of their own pockets. As it is, they don’t get paid enough. Why anyone, under the circumstances you find in classrooms today, would want to teach, is beyond me. They have my complete admiration. Considering today’s babysitting rates are $5 per child per hour, how does that equate to a teacher’s salary where they are doing so much more? Many parents view teachers as nothing more than glorified babysitters. They have no idea what a teacher deals with on a daily basis. They are putting up with so much more than most parents realize.
I was truly blessed with some wonderful teachers throughout my school years. They were mentors, advisers, leaders of the community, and taught us about things well beyond the subject they were teaching. Our classes in the elementary level were often made up of 40 to 45 students. Of course, there were students that didn’t behave, but it was rare. Teachers had control of their students and the support of not only staff, but of parents. My parents often told me if you get in trouble and get the paddle in school, you will get it again at home, no questions asked. I am sure there were teachers who abused the privilege of corporal punishment, but I didn’t know any. They didn’t worry about being accused of abuse or to have the police called on them and certainly not the threat of losing their jobs.
Now teachers can no longer apply corporal punishment, not alone touch students. They are up against parents that believe little Johnny or Susie would never do anything so terrible and their child doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. We have children who have had their self-esteem pumped up so high that they don’t understand how to be responsible for things they do wrong. They know how to scare teachers with verbal threats and physical attacks. We have some students with special needs that often don’t belong in a regular classroom setting, but their parents, and the state, insist they be included and treated like the other kids. It takes an entire year of disrupted classrooms and frustrated teachers, aides, and staff before it can be determined that the child does need to be removed from that setting. There are kids from different cultures with English being their second language. You have students that won’t learn as quickly as others and the ones that would benefit greatly with a little extra attention or tutoring that the teacher alone cannot provide. The teachers are expected to do whatever the administration asks of them concerning paperwork, curriculum, and discipline, all the while, keeping it interesting and fresh. There is never enough planning time. There isn’t even enough time to go to the bathroom or eat. They are trying to teach history, math, reading and science to students who are tired from lack of sleep, hungry from not being properly fed, and struggling with emotional problems from home that they never talk about. There are teachers who will buy a student a much needed winter coat or boots because they care. Let’s not forget the responsibility of keeping our children safe in a world that is full of threats. Teaching today, with all of the handicaps thrust on them, is one tough job. They aren’t in it for the money. It takes someone really special to be successful.
What about teacher burnout? The teacher who truly cares what their student is learning, how well they are doing both in school and at home, meeting their needs on a daily basis 9 months out of the year, sometimes more, is going to burn out. Teachers are doing work at home at night and on weekends; time spent that they aren’t getting paid for, and time taken away from their families. What can we do about it? For starters, stop thinking that you are too busy to do anything. If you can’t donate your time to be physically present, ask the teacher what they need to make their job easier. Teach your children respect for authority. Teach them how to be decent human beings, how to work as part of a team, how to deal with difficult situations. Don’t expect the teachers to be your substitute for parenting. Be aware of what is going on in your child’s life at school, on the way to and from, and who their friends are. Encourage them to play well with others, join clubs and organizations at school, or to get involved in sports. Help them with their homework. If you don’t understand it, then find someone who can or learn it right along with your child. Make sure your child is eating and sleeping properly. Go to parent/teacher conferences and LISTEN. Inquire about how your child is doing compared to other children in their class and ask if the teacher has any recommendations. Do your best to make your child understand the importance of an education and the respect the teacher deserves for doing their job.
So, when your child’s teacher gets up every morning knowing exactly what they are going to be dealing with for the day, picture them putting on their tights and capes and then bracing themselves for whatever is going to be thrown at them. They aren’t just dealing with your child, but several other children with individual needs. The least you can do is to ensure your child understands their role in the classroom. Be the superhero at home, so the teachers can be the superheroes at school and show your support.