It occurs to me that a little respect is what teachers need these days.
I started feeling the slippage of respect for my chosen profession as early as the early 1980’s. Salaries for teachers had already taken a huge hit because of the recession of the 70’s. And in my state, at least, teacher salaries never caught up with the rest of the economy.
Salaries are one way the public displays its lack of respect for teachers. For those who have never taught but think it looks like an easy gig, the salary may even seem inflated. After all, teachers only work “half of the year” which is what one misguided gentleman told me in a Facebook exchange a few days ago. They get their summers off, and they only work 6 hours a day if you only count the face time spent with kids.
But here is the thing that non-teachers don’t understand. You can’t only count the hours spent with kids. A teacher’s duties begin with hours and hours of planning. After the lesson plan has been executed, there are more hours spent in grading and assessing. Then there is more planning to do, not to mention endless meetings and requirements for professional development credit along the way.
Lack of respect from the public is one thing. In recent years, the lack of respect has become more personal. Students disrespect their teachers, and so do their parents.
When I was a child, my father taught me that if I was anywhere where he wasn’t, I was to listen to and respect the adult in charge. If I was on the school bus, that meant I was to listen to and respect the bus driver. If I happened to be at school, that person would be the teacher or the principal. Failing to respect the adult in charge would yield negative consequences.
I always respected my teachers, even when I didn’t always like them. I never talked back…not once. I sometimes disobeyed by talking too much or not paying attention when I should, but if I got caught behaving poorly, I knew better than to complain about it at home. I took my punishment.
It doesn’t work that way anymore. No one respects anyone anymore. We are worse off culturally and socially for it, it seems to me, too. This lack of respect for people and institutions is worrisome. It is doubly worrisome in our schools.
Teachers can’t teach, and children cannot learn if the classroom is in chaos. I know that teachers sometimes possess poor classroom management techniques. It is easy to distinguish the ones who do from the ones who don’t. Stand outside any classroom. Tell-tell signs include yelling, threatening, and a general impression of disorder.
Even the best teachers have trouble with classroom behavior these days, though. I had dinner with a colleague recently. She may be one of the best teachers I have ever known. She shared that she had just had the “worst day of her entire career.”
She had subbed that day. The 3rd graders to whom she had been assigned didn’t have a routine yet–and it was mid-March. She knew she was in for a bad day by 8:30 that morning. She made it through the full day but swore she would never go back to that school or that classroom.
One has to wonder, though. Is the problem with the teacher alone? Or is part of the problem that children are no longer taught to respect the adult in the room anymore? Do they respect their parents? Do they respect anything or anyone?
What I know for sure is that there is a price to pay for not having children respect teachers. In fact, teaching as a profession already feels outdated. It is fast becoming “just a job.”
I am concerned that classrooms of the future are going to run by people who in it for the short term. Teaching will be seen as a temp job until they decide to go back to law school or start a family or start their own business.
I dread that day, but I have to admit, I see it coming. As respect diminishes for teachers and the profession, I see it coming faster and faster.
Until next time.
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