During Teacher Appreciation Week, which took place May 7 – 11, your Alachua County Council of PTAs (ACCPTA) took a moment to recognize the “T” in our name—teachers.

We can all be grateful for this battered but noble profession. Teachers have committed their lives to educating other people’s children and to making sure that all students in their classroom are given every opportunity to reach their potential. They hold the key to our future for 180 days a year, six hours a day. They deserve to be respected and celebrated in word and action.

In today’s world, our teachers are taking on responsibility for more aspects of our children’s lives than many of us realize. They’re expected to promote their students’ social, emotional, even physical development in addition to their academic progress. Society asks teachers to turn out well-adjusted, productive citizens without providing the support they need to accomplish such a monumental task…and TEACHERS persist.

Decisions made by non-educators in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. are making the job even harder…and TEACHERS persist.

Teachers must teach to the Florida Standards, which were established by the state. Their effectiveness is judged based on the results of standardized tests given to all students in grades three through eleven. The results can affect their pay, where they can teach and even whether they can stay in the classroom. In some cases, teachers are evaluated based on subjects they don’t actually teach. Little to no consideration is given to the external factors that can greatly affect a student’s test scores, things like a crisis within the family or a health issue…and TEACHERS persist.

Many state and national leaders nowadays believe schools should be viewed as businesses competing amongst themselves and with other types of schools for ‘customers’ and funding. Unfortunately there’s not a level playing field. Our public school teachers don’t get to pick and choose their students. They must serve every child who walks in their classroom. No matter the challenges (and there are many), teachers are expected to meet every student’s educational needs…and TEACHERS persist.

As an active parent and as president of the ACCPTA for the last two years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of local teachers. I know how hard they work to meet their students’ needs. Long days, extra school activities, professional development and time away from their own families are all part of the modern teacher’s job…and TEACHERS persist.

They’re even asked to be heroes, to protect their students’ lives at the risk of their own. As we’ve learned all too well over the last twenty years, teachers have shown they’re willing to make that ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our children…and TEACHERS persist.

How much longer can we expect our teachers to persist? How much more responsibility can we ask them to take on without the respect and support they need and deserve? How many young people can we expect to take up this profession in today’s environment? If the current teacher shortage in Alachua County, in Florida and throughout the nation is any indication, we are reaching a time of reckoning.

Now more than ever, we need to listen and to open our eyes to the many ways our teachers are working to prepare the future generation of doctors, mechanics, police officers, civic leaders and yes, teachers. Then we need to act on what we hear and see.  Our teachers need to know that we value what they do, which means we need to treat them like the important public servants and community leaders they are.

What can you do? First, consider volunteering in a school, particularly a high-needs school where teachers can really use the extra help.  It doesn’t have to take up much time, and you’ll probably find that you get as much out of it as the students and teachers you’re helping. For more information, contact the district’s Volunteer Office at (352) 955-7250, ext. 252.

You can also let your state legislators know that they need to be more supportive of our public school teachers. That means providing them with the resources they need and eliminating many of the laws, regulations, and high-stakes testing that burden teachers and don’t ultimately help students. You can find their contact information here:
Florida Senate
Florida House of Representatives

I’d also like to encourage you to join our #RedforEd Campaign. On May 8, we wore red to raise awareness about the need to increase education funding and improve working conditions. Our school communities have been “making do” for too long – enough is enough! This will be an ongoing campaign to support the advocacy efforts of the ACCPTA, and you can get your #RedforEd t-shirt by visiting our website at accpta.org.

Teachers, your ACCPTA sees you, hears you, and thanks you for your persistence. I encourage my fellow parents and citizens to say loudly and proudly: “THANK YOU, TEACHERS!”

 

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