Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! To celebrate and honor you, this week the e-book edition of my book, The Teachers: A Year Inside America’s Most Vulnerable, Important Profession, is price-dropped to $1.99 so that more people can hear and understand your voices. I hope you love Miguel, Rebecca, and Penny – the real teachers I followed for a school year – as much as I do, and that the words of the hundreds of other teachers I interviewed give you solidarity and strength.
Meanwhile, I plan to continue to fight to get you what you deserve. Here’s my list; please let me know if I’m missing something that’s important to you, so I can lobby for that, too.
You deserve more respect and less standardized testing, smaller class sizes and larger paychecks. Raising your salaries benefits students, as well. A 2022 study found that students’ math and English test scores are “significantly higher in districts that offer a higher base salary to teachers.”
You deserve a safe working environment in which violence and discrimination is not tolerated from students, parents, or staff, and you can report it and other transgressions without fear of retaliation or breach of confidentiality. You deserve fair, effective protections and mitigations contractually in place for school shootings and contagions. You deserve environmentally safe, mold-free workspaces with functioning HVAC systems and water fountains. You deserve a positive school climate, which SUNY Downstate public health professor Paul Landsbergis defines as including “physical and social-emotional security, support for teaching and learning, social support from peers and adults, and respect for diversity, . . . school connectedness and engagement [and] staff relationships.”
You deserve more staffing: paraeducators, counselors, aides, and a nurse in every school. You deserve an administrative assistant to handle your paperwork, documentation, and clerical tasks, so that teachers can focus on teaching. You deserve to helm every committee determining school operations rather than policymakers who proclaim what should happen in the classroom despite never having taught in one.
You deserve student loan forgiveness, tax credits for every penny you spend on school supplies, paid parental leave, free or heavily subsidized childcare, administrators who receive more relevant teacher-supportive trainings, time to observe other classes, and to be treated as skilled professionals.
You deserve a well-defined, realistic job description and enough protected school-day planning time to fulfill that job within your paid contracted hours. You deserve unwavering administrative commitment to full-time positions for music, the arts, library classes, PE, and other specialties. You deserve staffing for behavioral support – or administrators who assist with behavioral challenges, communicate with parents, and enforce consequences themselves rather than punting extra responsibilities to you.
And you deserve people who will fight for you. We are here. We see you. And we will continue to amplify your voices so that we can get you what you need.
With gratitude and appreciation,