Ah, yes, Teacher Appreciation Week. That is when the entire country allegedly comes together to celebrate those individuals who have preserved and continue to inculcate the values of society and the richness of learning into the youth of America. Just because it coincides with the mandated testing required by NCLB and the pressures of making sure every student is prepared for life - I mean the test - is probably just a glitch in the government’s calendar allocation week department.
Despite all the testing requirements, changing student demographics, rising class sizes, the fact teacher pay has deteriorated in buying power by 15 percent in the last 20 years, and that college graduates who choose teaching will ultimately make half of what those who select most every other major make, teachers are still enthusiastic about what they do.
Indeed, public school teachers are more satisfied with their careers today than at any point in time over the last two decades. Of the three million teachers in the United States 35 percent are over 50-years-old and still hanging in there, that despite statistics revealing over 25 percent of new teachers intend to leave teaching in the next five years for other occupations.
More than half of the public feel teaching is a noble profession; that ranks just behind doctors and scientists.
There are about three million teachers in the United States and 75 percent of them are female, married, and just under 45-years-old. About half of them have master’s degrees, and a teacher’s salary averages $44,700 per year. More than half of the public feel teaching is a noble profession; that ranks just behind doctors and scientists. Nine out of ten teachers are happy in their jobs and there is plenty of room for more in the profession. The National Center for Education Statistics found that 2.8 million new teaching related jobs will be available over the next eight years, with those that have ESL training being the most sought after as well as science and math teachers.
So with an increasing need for new teachers, a happy bunch of new teachers and millions of underpaid and aging experienced teachers, you would think that Teacher Appreciation Day would be a hot topic. Well, using Google Fight reveals that the number of citations for Teacher Appreciation Week was trounced by those for Nurses Appreciation Week 6 to 1. Educators lost to police appreciation week 2 to 1, and mailman delivery appreciation week 10 to 1. Teacher appreciation week came close only to fireman appreciation week, but even then educators fell 70,000 citations short.
What is clearly needed is a salute to teachers that would last more than a day or week. It should last at least a month.
What are we missing here? Education is the Queen of Sciences. Everything is channeled through teachers. What is clearly needed is a salute to teachers that would last more than a day or week. It should last at least a month. After all, National Oatmeal Month, National Thank You Month, National Wild Bird Feeding Month, National Frozen Food Month, National Frog Month, Dairy Month, Anti-Boredom Month, National Blueberry Month, National Catfish Month, Peanut Butter Lover’s Month, and even National Popcorn Popping Month get their 30 days of attention.
A brief history of teaching
Teaching in ancient Indian, Chinese, Egyptian and Judean cultures was performed by priests or prophets. Ancient Greeks saw the value of educating children, and the wealthiest added teachers to their households. Often these teachers were slaves from conquered states, a tradition the Romans continued. In fact, the word “pedagogue” is derived from the Greek word for slave.
During the 5th through 15th centuries in Europe, the Roman Catholic Church took responsibility for teaching, most of which occurred in monasteries and specially designated learning centers. Later, as more Europeans became interested in educating children, education reformers founded model schools for youth and trained new teachers to advance their theories and methods.
Thomas Jefferson became the first American leader to propose a publicly supported system of free schools for all persons.
Teaching in America
Soon after the American Revolution, the founders argued education was essential for the nation’s survival and prosperity. Thomas Jefferson became the first American leader to propose a publicly supported system of free schools for all persons.
However an organized system did not exist until the 1840s. Education reformers like Horace Mann and Henry Barnard, working in Massachusetts and Connecticut respectively, helped create statewide common-school systems. Mann also sought support for improved teacher training and pay.
Yet not until the late 20th century did teaching begin to attain professional status in the U.S. Until then, emphasis was on teachers with nurturing skills rather than instructional expertise. However, a 1983 report by the U.S. Department of Education, A Nation at Risk, introduced a new era of educational reform. The report called for rigorous standards of teacher preparation, while acknowledging new challenges for U.S. teachers from more diverse student populations and more complex teaching technologies.
Humor is one of the most underrated methods to help students learn.
A 1996 education department report cited additional barriers to improved teacher training, including: inadequate teacher education programs; poor teacher recruiting efforts, especially in math and science; poor administrative practices such as placing new teachers in the most demanding assignments; and lack of rewards for teachers with outstanding skills and performance. Add to this the necessity of professional development requirements, meeting NCLB certification, visiting relatives, teaching summer school to make ends meet and maybe finding new employment, this just might be a good time to take a look at the importance of humor in the classroom. Humor is one of the most underrated methods to help students learn.
A dose of humor helps
Every research article on this topic points out that teachers who use humor get better results at test time and that humor is an ingredient in a healthier life. With that in mind, here are a few sites that offer a range of resources to add some levity to your program. (Keep in mind that I got married on April 1, a date that has never failed to reflect my wife’s opinion of me.)
Sites that have humorous cartoons and stories about teaching:
Editor's note: In what ways are teachers honored in your district during Teacher Appreciation Week? Should teachers have an entire month dedicated to Teacher Appreciation instead of just one week each year? Use the Discussion link below to post your comments and reactions to this article.
Alan Haskvitz teaches at Suzanne Middle School in Walnut, Calif., and makes staff development presentations nationwide. In addition, he serves as an audio-visual evaluator and design consultant for his county department of education; a tutor to multi-cultural students in English and art; and an Internet consultant.
Haskvitz's career spans more than 20 years. He has taught every grade level and core subject, has been recognized repeatedly for innovative teaching and has received the following honors, among many:
USA Today All Star Teacher
100 Most Influential Educators
Reader's Digest Hero in Education
Learning Magazine's Professional Best
National Middle Level Teacher of the Year
National Exemplary Teacher
Christa McAuliffe National Award
Robert Cherry International Award for Great Teachers
In addition, Haskvitz publishes articles on successful educational practices and speaks at conferences. He has served on seven national committees and boards.
Haskvitz maintains credentials and training in special and gifted education, history, administration, bilingual education, journalism, English, social studies, art, business, computers, museumology and Asian studies. He holds these credentials for Canada, New York and California. His experience also includes staff development, gifted curriculum design, administration, community relations and motivation. His background includes 10 years of university education.
As a teacher, Haskvitz's curriculum increased CAP/CLAS test scores from the 22nd percentile to the 94th percentile, the largest gain in California history. In addition, Haskvitz and his students work continuously to improve their school and community. His students' work is often selected for awards in competitions in several subject areas. For more details about Alan and his students' work, visit his page on the Educational Cyber Playground.