DEFINING THE meaning of teacher requires more than Merriam-Webster; it takes a deeper look and a second glance. More than a job with a summer-long vacation, teachers are motivated by their love for children and desire to see them succeed in life.
Their motivation is much greater than their salaries. According to the State of Tennessee website, the average teacher’s salary in our state is $52,596 (State of Tennessee, comptroller.tn.gov, 2021). Yahoo!News reported Tennessee is ranked number 42 in teacher salary in the United States for the 2020-2021 school year (yahoo!news, yahoo.com, 2022).
While their jobs during the school year are expected to cover 40-hour weeks, their investment in our children is far more significant. Aside from instruction time in the classroom, teachers tutor, collaborate with each other, prepare lessons, complete paperwork required by the state, and lead after-school programs, organizations, and sports. There’s little time left for their own families, although many families work together to help.
Add to these after-hours activities their worry for their students’ basic needs and care. Hunger often tops the list. While the school system provides breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack, meals at night and over the weekends may be few and far between.
Many educators are continuing their education while teaching full time, costs for which are often expensive. Although some grants are available, many must pay tuition out of their pockets. The school system does not provide most supplies for their classrooms. Many teachers have no choice but to purchase these themselves.
Teaching can be an expensive and exhausting 24/7 job. A recent Professional Educators of Tennessee survey reflects the increasing toll it all takes on our teachers, stating that more than 80% of Tennessee’s teachers are concerned about morale. It further found that 22% of teachers across Tennessee don’t plan to stay in education. There isn’t enough time in the school day to do it all (WBIR, WBIR.com, 2022).
We can help. A great starting point is compassion for the students, letting them know they’re seen and loved. Students strive under heavy loads socially, emotionally, and academically. Their learning is fast-paced and test-driven. The more secure a student feels in their learning environment, the more opportunities for success exist. Love for students shows love for their teachers.
The smallest things make a difference when we work with teachers. Many classes, even older grades, enjoy books read to them by adults who add their personalities and passions to the stories. Similarly, learning about various occupations through visits from those in the workforce offers glimpses into possible future careers. In today’s learning environment, involving students in your company’s projects builds problem- solving skills and teamwork. You have something to offer, whatever your job, hobbies, or passions.
To ease the cost of classroom supplies coming from teachers’ pockets, consider how you might help. Donations enable them to use the remaining funds for other purchases that will benefit their students. Watch for organizations in your community that collect for teachers and students, or contact the school board and ask what teachers need. A supply dropoff at any time of the school year is a great momentum builder.
Remember, saying thanks is the cheapest and easiest way to support a teacher. Write a note or thank them as you pass them in the grocery store or at ballgames. Wherever you find them, see their investment in our kids and the future. Want more ways? A quick internet search of ways to help teachers yields a gold mine.
Teachers, for your long days and your big hearts, we thank you! GN