Tag Archives: Status

Peeling Back the Layers of Teacher Appreciation

Are educators really appreciated? Tomorrow, May 10, marks the end of Teacher Appreciation Week. In the early years, appreciation can be quite pervasive, little ones sharing handwritten notes with big hearts and occasionally there is the parent who shares a thank you note. Oftentimes for just a day, or sometimes for a week, schools recognize Teacher Appreciation to celebrate and honor teachers for their dedication and hard work. A nice gesture and yet as a career educator, I cannot help but ponder the true value society pays to teachers.

Until 2013 no one was measuring teacher status.  Enter the Varkey Foundation and its mission to improve standards of education and also raise the status and capacity of teachers throughout the world.  The measurement tool they developed is called the Global Teacher Status Index (GTSI). The GTSI is a score between 0 and 100 and the number summarizes information from teacher surveys using Principal Component Analysis. China scored the highest with a perfect score of 100.  Really China?  Whereas Brazil and Israel were at the other end of the spectrum at just 1 and 6.5 respectively. The United States fell somewhere in the middle with a score of 39. Since the Varkey Foundation’s origins, GTSI is now being used with 35 countries. Interestingly enough, key findings in the United States report include:

  • The U.S. public believes teachers are not paid a fair wage and should earn at least $7500 more annually
  • 50% of respondents also believe teachers should earn based on student performance
  • 78% believe teachers are influential, the fourth highest of all countries surveyed
  • When US respondents were asked to rank 14 professions including doctors, nurses, librarians, and social workers in order of respect (with 14 being the highest and 1 the lowest), headteachers were ranked the 6th lowest of all the countries surveyed

So, there is evidence of how the status of teachers in the United States can improve. 

Recognition Runs the Gamut

Having taught every grade from three to twelve, in public and private, rural and urban settings, as well as in three States and four countries outside of the United States, it is a bit surprising how teacher appreciation is similarly experienced. Even across the decades. Appreciation or recognition is a sort of hit or miss. Imperative is that we as educators have it within ourselves. Appreciation.  For ourselves and the not only noble but extremely impactful profession. I say “hit or miss” because the experience is largely dependent on administration and parent committees.  Even at the same school, a teacher could have a completely different feel from one year to the next. In one school I taught, teacher appreciation simply meant the delivery of a typed form letter in our mailbox from our principal. Completely impersonal. At another school, with a legion of teachers, we all received a plastic baggie of homemade, albeit stale, cookies. I’ve received Starbucks gift cards for $10.  A delicious array of food for a luncheon one year. A the same school, the very next year, a masseuse was at school all day and we could sign up for 20-minute chair massages. In another school, a last-minute attempt was made to put on a lunch, barely a step up from the cafeteria. One year I remember how teachers were able to select two gifts from a wide array of offerings. I chose the $20 gift card to my favorite local coffee shop and a bottle of whiskey. Yep, there was an assortment of hard liquors. Teacher appreciation and recognition run the gamut. Far from standardization and absolutely a reflection of a school’s culture. Possibly a small act or even a big effort, however as a teacher I would venture to guess that  I am not alone in stating that it does mean something to us.

Whatever is done, if anything, what is important is that teachers truly feel appreciated. That was definitely not the case at the school where the mediocre lunch was served. To top it off, the first people in the lunch line were not even teachers!

Insights from a Hybrid Educator

In person I facilitate one section of grade 12 capstone. During the pandemic and ever since, I have enjoyed teaching two courses for an online school as well. In a certain sense, this hybrid role allows me to sit on the periphery of traditional mainstream education. Almost like a meteorologist, I see the storms coming, often how they make landfall, and yet I never get “wet.” Keen always to learn, when I hear about opportunities in education or they cross my screen, I want to know more. One such example that recently appeared as a recommendation on my LinkedIn feed, led me to to reflect more on this topic of teacher status and appreciation. Curiously I looked at the job description and how this “leading ed-tech company” was helping districts and schools address staffing shortages and also expanding school’s course offerings. They were looking for a part-time teacher who would be on a 1099 contract. This means there are no benefits and in effect a large percentage would end up being paid in taxes. The role was to teach grade 9-12 students AP courses via Zoom. A prospective applicant could appreciate how they explicitly outline the expected time commitments. “In a typical week for one section, online teachers can anticipate their core work as teaching (four hours) and planning/grading (about two hours). Online teachers also engage in coaching, professional development, and recurring team meetings (typically one hour on average per week, though varies week-to-week) for a total weekly commitment of six to seven hours.”  The pay? $40 an hour. That means approximately $300 a week. Or, post taxes more like $200.  I don’t know about you and where you live but $200 does not cover a whole lot. Is this a reflection of the low status of educators? Possibly a mere glimpse of the true value not being “paid” to teachers.