Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and I wanted to reflect on one my favorite teachers and the power of being an educator.
I vividly remember on the chalkboard of my 5th grade classroom, Mr. Forand had a felt banner on the left-hand side that said “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” I can picture exactly how it looked and not only do I remember that 25 years later, but I remember so vividly of how Mr. Forand was as an educator.
This one teacher showed me the importance of Shakespeare, the way to really love the English language, how to find science and nature fascinating, and what it meant to be a passionate educator. If you want to get a better idea of who my 5th grade teacher was, think of Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World.
We all have teachers that we truly remember and admire because their passion resonated throughout everything they did, in and out of the classroom. It’s what separates a good teacher from a great teacher. Sadly though, there is a drastic decline of both good and great teachers in America, with an ever decreasing number of collegiate students enrolling in education programs.
Based on a 2019 article from U.S. News, a study from the Center for American Progress showed a 33% decline in students enrolling in collegiate teacher preparation programs nationwide. This means that there are 340,000 less students enrolling than in 2010. This could lead to a shortage of teachers needed, especially in the K-12 demographic, and in some places across the country this has already begun.
And this does make sense to me why students would be hesitant getting into education, even if they are dying to become a teacher. Being an educator is incredibly hard work (coming from a K-12 educator for 13 years), working 12-hour work days at minimum, with salaries not matching the intensity and skill level needed to be a quality teacher. A 2019 Business Insider article shares that the average starting salary for a teacher in 63% of the nation’s schools is below $40,000. That means that based on a 60-hour work week (which is typical for teachers), they are paid approximately $12.82 / hour, and this is before taxes.
In this article they state that “According to a recent Economic Policy Institute report, teachers are paid 21.4% less than similarly educated and experienced professionals.”
This harsh and real truth can make many students take a second-guess before getting into the education industry, however, just like any public servant occupation, you don’t pursue being a teacher for the money. You do it because you want to make a positive impact on the next generation of students. You have a passion to share your knowledge and teach students in a whole new way, exciting them to find their passion and what they connect with. Watching a student succeed, especially after seeing them struggle is an incredible and rewarding feeling.
Becoming a teacher is a selfless endeavor. You are putting the needs of others constantly first. But when teachers lead from a place of passion, excitement, and of a nurturing heart, the positive impact you have on a student goes way beyond the classroom. I mean, look at the impact Mr. Forand had on me 25 years later. It becomes a memory you want to revisit and thrive from.
Our podcast Renegades & Mavericks just began its second season last week, and we are focusing on all things education this season. From K-12 teachers, to learning-based app developers, to alternative style educators, we want to showcase and bring to life the stories and impact that education has on community and the planet.
If you personally know a teacher in your life, even if it’s not Teacher Appreciation Week, go thank them. Show them gratitude not just for what they do, but who they are.
If you are a teacher, we thank you. Thank you for putting the needs of children before your own. Thank you for encouraging students to push themselves even when they want to give up. Thank you for sharing your passion for educating others and the importance to constantly and endlessly learn. Thank you for being shining examples of how incredible we can be as humans and what it looks like when we pursue what we are called to do and passionate about.
And if you’re a student looking to go to college and wondering if you want to become an educator, only do it if you are truly passionate about being a teacher and no matter what, that is what you are called to do. If this is the case, make today the first day of the rest of your life as an educator.
Listen to Season 02 of Renegades & Mavericks