What do Mr. Pete Sellers, Mrs. Barbara Russell, Herr Reger, Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Houghton, Mr. McKenzie, Mr. St. Clair and Mr. Thomas Walsh all have in common?
It is the result of their heroic efforts as public school teachers, and the educational foundations they laid decades ago right here in Prince George’s County, that this union president was able to spend a quarter century passing on the favor to another generation of children. Each one shaped, in ways not easily measured, the teacher I would later become.
As an ominous prelude to national Teacher Appreciation Week (May 7 through May 11), a recently released study demonstrates that job satisfaction for teachers is clearly on the decline. Considering that nearly 60 percent of teachers were already leaving the profession within six years of entering it, one is forced to contemplate what will happen as educators confront the current trends of ever-mounting accountability demands and vanishing resources.
The last decade of “teacher-bashing” in the popular media has also played a role around the issue of plummeting morale.
The overwhelming majority of educators are dedicated professionals who work to the limits of human endurance and patience. No highly effective teacher really gets the job done in anything less than 50 hours weekly. Many teachers devote much more time to their craft.
Dynamic lessons and great teaching do not fall like manna from the sky.
When starting from scratch, a well-conceived lesson plan may take just as long to organize as to present. One minute of planning for each minute of presentation is commonplace. Granted, experienced teachers have an established repertoire of lessons. This, however, does not obviate the need to revise, modify, update and enhance prior lessons, or else run the risk going stale and losing enthusiasm.
The job of teaching is never complete until the instructor holds the learner accountable for the acquisition of skills and knowledge. So, tack on another couple hours each day for graded assessments. Does one minute per student daily sound like too little? What about teachers carrying more than 200 students on their caseload? The simple math is daunting.
Let us also consider the time for data entry, paperwork, referrals, hall supervision, home contacts and recommendation letters, to name but a few on the long list of expectations.
Want a simple way to increase job satisfaction for educators? Please, everyone, take the time next week to express your appreciation to a teacher that made a difference either in your life, or in the life of a child that is dear to you.
Kenneth Haines is president of the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association.