After the war in Vietnam, it was common for those who served in the military to be publicly berated for their service. It has been a wonderful transformation to see how that has shifted in recent years. My father, a proud member of the Air Force, would come to tears when his military career was acknowledged, and people would come up, shake his hand at the airport, and say, “Thank you for your service.”
While I am glad this shift in public sentiment has occurred for those in the military, I often think about what it would take for the public to be equally proud and grateful for the service teachers provide every day. Of course, there are acknowledgments during Teacher Appreciation Week. Politicians routinely give speeches on the importance of teachers. National organizations, public and private, highlight the heroic work done by educators. National polls suggest that parents tend to have a high opinion about their own children’s teachers.
But, while individual teachers may be celebrated, the profession as a whole, is not Low salaries, in a country that puts dollars to what it values, have always led to a depressed reverence for the profession of teaching, but over the last few years, political forces have contributed to the demeaning of this career path. Teachers have been thrown right in the middle of the culture wars with accusations of what they may be teaching (CRT) or that they are indoctrinating students to think in certain ways. While this may be true of a small number of educators, many politicians and media outlets have embraced this notion, truly, damaging the profession. This is causing thousands to leave the profession and too few to take their place. Running an organization that is trying to encourage people to consider becoming teachers, I have heard the trepidation candidates have for entering this field.
It does not have to be this way. In other countries, teachers are revered and respected. If we take the opportunity, with a historical teacher shortage, to provide pay and support that is worthy of the profession, this role will elevate the minds of many. If people remember that all of us have been positively impacted by caring, talented teachers who made a genuine difference in our lives, we might remember to speak more positively about the overall profession. And, maybe we will all get to witness teachers being recognized for what they do, and people coming up to them saying, “Thank you for your service.”