The teacher shortage is a real issue impacting many schools across the nation. While teaching has always been considered a noble profession, fewer people are going into the profession now than ever before. It is important to acknowledge that teachers, the good and the bad, have more of an impact on the lives of children than many people would like to admit.
In a normal school setting, children spend approximately 5 to 7 hours a day in the classroom with their teachers, depending on the school day. More often than not, children in America spend more time with their teachers than they do with their own guardians. Teachers truly do affect not only the academic but also the emotional well-being of their students.
In writing this article, I am reminded of my seventh-grade math teacher, Mrs. M, who impacted my life greatly. As a pre-teen, I found my family’s move from Ghana to America to be difficult. I struggled to understand some of the material that my classmates already knew.
When Mrs. M discovered that I was struggling, she did everything she could to help me understand the content. Mrs. M was committed to making sure that I successfully immersed myself into the full academic experience. Thirty full minutes before school began each day, Mrs. M would be waiting for me outside of her classroom.
Upon my arrival, she would sit down with me at the yellow table toward the back of the classroom and hand me a folder full of practice worksheets and equations. For an entire half-hour, Mrs. M would sit with me and go through each of the problems on the paper. We often went over other content that I found challenging as well.
We made associations between different content and the ways in which they were alike yet different. Although I made plenty of mistakes, Mrs. M never gave up on my ability to learn. She constantly reassured me that I was doing well and opened my eyes to the necessity of compassionate teachers. This experience taught me the importance of having a genuine teacher.
As a child, I failed to grasp the impact of Mrs. M’s actions on my academic career. I assumed that it was part of her job to essentially tutor me for an extra 30 minutes each day. Having matured, I completely understand that it was really kindness that motivated her to do so.
Though she was not an immigrant herself, she was able to place herself in my shoes. She made an effort to understand how difficult the move was for me and took on extra responsibilities to make sure that I was successful in her classroom. This experience taught me that, in many ways, teachers are not simply educators. They are mentors and role models. They impact the way people perceive themselves and their place in the world.
Yet across the nation, it seems as though teachers are rarely given the respect they deserve. It is worth taking a step back to consider why this is so and what our society is risking by devaluing the importance of educators. Disrespectful behavior toward educators is seen as normal. Not a day goes by where I do not see a recorded video on YouTube of a teacher being treated poorly by students.
Some teachers have even come to accept it as part of the job. It seems as though our technology-driven society has yet to realize the true value of educators. It is a job that not many people are willing to do. Teacher martyrdom is often expected, even when it comes at the detriment of the teachers themselves.
Teachers are often expected to make themselves available, even during non-contracted hours. One of the biggest struggles teachers face is the inability to separate work life from personal life. In fact, research shows that roughly 73 percent of teachers find their job stressful due to an inability to truly leave work behind when the school day is over.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that most teachers end up burning out within a few years into the profession. Many of us have also heard of the notoriously low salaries teachers are expected to be okay with, especially since teaching requires a bachelor's degree or more.
Perhaps the shortage of teachers in this country is for a valid reason. It is unfortunate that such an important profession is taken for granted by society. Teachers truly are the backbone of our society.
They sacrifice a lot to make sure the youth is educated. They are needed now, more than ever. It would be wise for our society as a whole to begin valuing our educators. We can no longer continue to gamble with the future of our nation as the way a nation treats its educators reflects in the kinds of students it produces.
Vanessa Darkoa is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in English and minoring in history and education. Her column, "As It Is," runs on alternate Mondays.
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