“Respect teachers.” That should be a given, considering how critical teachers’ jobs are to kids’ future success. Yet many teachers don't feel that respect for the profession has increased in the last year, after feeling an initial surge of appreciation at the start of the pandemic, according to HMH's latest Educator Confidence Report.
The pandemic shed light on just how challenging teaching can be. Teachers were hailed as heroes alongside doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers. TV producer Shonda Rhimes tweeted on March 16, 2020: “Been homeschooling a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.” Parents everywhere seconded that opinion. (Want to show appreciation for teachers? Take a cue from these principals.)
Yet, when asked in May 2021 about potential positive impacts of the pandemic, only 37% of educators cited increased respect for the profession, down from 63% the previous year.
We asked Rae Hughart, CXO of Teach Better and a former middle-school math teacher, for her take on the issue and what teachers can do to boost respect for the profession.
“The ebb and flow of teacher respect over the years has a lot to do with awareness,” says Hughart. “You can’t respect what you don’t understand.”
When the pandemic hit, Hughart says, families experienced firsthand the hurdles teachers face in the classroom, and respect for them grew. But as workers returned to offices, people wondered why more teachers didn’t follow suit. Hughart attributes that to a lack of awareness. “People don’t know that many schools lack the space and resources that the business world takes for granted.”
Hughart admits that before she became a teacher, she underestimated the profession. As she writes in the book she co-authored with Adam Welcome, Teachers Deserve It:
“When I originally began teaching, I had very little understanding of what I was getting into. I had no idea what a teacher deserved because what teachers deserved was rarely discussed. In my mind, teachers had it easy. Come on . . . they don’t even work over the summer, right?”
After six months on the job, Hughart’s eyes were opened. Between writing personalized lessons, she was counseling students who had been taken from their homes—all while trying to survive on a “nearly unlivable wage.”
One of the reasons Hughart wrote Teachers Deserve It was to suggest ways teachers can change the narrative and get the respect they deserve.
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