stressed teacher

by Rebecca Bauer

Last week, a friend sent me the article, “Why So Many Teachers Feel Bad So Much of the Time”, and asked me what I thought. I was about halfway through reading it when I received a text from a different friend, a first-year high school English teacher, asking me what exactly my job was, because she wanted to do something else next year.

So what did I think about this article? I think its bleak outlook is concerningly accurate. 

In my work in education, I often hear administrators and politicians ask, “How can we better support our students?”  It’s a great question deserving a thoughtful answer, but there’s another important question that I hear asked less often.

How can we better support our teachers?

In order for students to be successful, we must support their teachers. Unfortunately, according to a 2013 Gallup poll of 14 different professions, teachers were least likely to respond positively to the statement, “[my] supervisor always creates an environment that is trusting and open.” 

Clearly, teachers aren’t getting the type of support they need. I’m not talking about support to help them better navigate the bureaucracy or better understand the constantly changing state and federal standards. I mean finding ways to make teaching a less isolating profession, which, the article points out, begins with providing every new teacher with “a mentor who can remind them why they are teaching in the first place.”

Teachers don’t receive nearly enough positive reinforcement. I’ve worked in schools and I’ve worked in office settings and while each have distinct advantages, when it comes to receiving positive feedback the disparity is upsetting.

In an office, your boss might see you working late and acknowledge your dedication. Every night when a teacher puts her kids to bed and proceeds to grade papers, there’s no one there thanking her for putting in those extra hours. In an office, a co-worker might shoot you an email to say you really nailed your presentation. In a classroom, when a teacher pulls off an amazing lesson plan, there’s no one there to notice.  

Certainly the progress of their students and the relationships they build are rewards in themselves. However, it’s becoming more and more difficult for teachers to acknowledge a job well done, when outside pressures keep saying, work harder, do better.

In celebration of Random Acts of Kindness week (Feb. 9-15) and in appreciation of a greatly undervalued profession, here are a few RAKs you can do for the teachers in your life.

  • If you’re a teacher, offer to share your resources and lesson plans with a colleague. If they share with you, be sure to express gratitude and tell them what you appreciated about their work.

  • If you’re an administrator, ask a teacher how everything is going, remind them that you’re there if they want advice on any challenging situations.

  • If you have a friend who is a teacher and some time to spare, volunteer to help them make photocopies or perform a different time consuming job or errand.

  • If you have a child in school, send their teacher a quick thank you. Tell them what your child enjoys about their class or what you appreciate about the way that they teach.

  • If you’ve ever had a teacher, write them a note. Tell them how they influenced you and thank them for the difference they made in your life.

RAK week doesn’t officially start until Monday, but teachers deserve our gratitude and support right now. What other Random Acts of Kindness ideas do you have to encourage our teachers? Comment below with your ideas!