We have no new budget. Still. And we are in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic which has altered the landscape of education for a time.
Last week, Mark Johnson mentioned that this week is National Teacher Appreciation Week and flippantly offered an idea to reward teachers: beer.
Yet, with all that is happening concerning public education and about to happen with economic plans (public education usually is the first to experience cuts), the idea of getting beer as thanks is not really what appreciating teachers is all about.
Johnson and many policy lawmakers in Raleigh seem to think that the best way to show appreciation for teachers is offering rewards. What teachers and other education professionals really deserve is respect .
A reward is something that is given in recognition of someone’s service, effort, and/or achievement. One could get a reward for doing well on a project or completing a task. Some could look at a bonus check as a reward for accomplishing a goal.
To have respect is to have a deep feeling of admiration for someone because of his abilities, qualities, and value. It is understanding that someone is important and should be taken seriously.
- A reward sounds like something that can be used as a political ploy. Respect needs no political prompt.
- A reward could be a one-time gift. Respect is continuous and grows.
- A reward is a reaction to something. Respect guides your actions.
- A reward is giving teachers a small bonus that gets taxed by the state and has no effect on retirement. Respect would be to bring salaries for teachers at least to the national average.
- A reward would be to give a school some sort of distinction because it met a measurement achievement. Respect would be honoring teachers because of actual student growth in the face of factors out of the schools’ control.
- A reward would be providing more textbooks. Respect would be to keep growing per-pupil expenditures to ensure that all students got the resources they need.
- A reward would be giving a one-time pay hike to teachers. Respect would be to make sure they kept getting raises throughout their careers on a fair salary schedule and restoring longevity pay.
- A reward may be to alter the teacher evaluation system. Respect would be to restore due-process rights for all teachers.
- A reward may be to give more professional development for teachers. Respect would be restoring pay bumps for graduate degrees.
And respect would also be making sure that teachers on the front-lines of education are a vital part of the discussions about what to do in the face of this pandemic and how we as a state should proceed as far as our students and schools are concerned.
We have seen what a lack of respect for teachers has done to our state in a short amount of time. Where we once were considered a flagship state system in the South, we are now in a state of regression. So while I will not decline a “reward” of a pay raise, I will tell my lawmakers that affording more respect to teachers, administrators, and teacher assistants could go a long in helping stop the attrition of teaching talent in North Carolina.
Why? Because if you respect something you will show it through your actions, not just your campaign speeches and vague promises.
And respect can work both ways. For those lawmakers who view public education as a priority and view teachers with respect, I will not only reward them with my vote, I would show my respect by supporting them throughout their terms.
But most importantly, don’t reward me for teaching. Respect me for being a teacher.