It is important that we take the time this week (and the weeks to follow) to honor our teachers and start talking about how we can ensure that all teachers have the tools and the support they need to do their job.
Throughout the past few decades, the role of a public-school teacher has evolved tremendously, extending far beyond the confines of the classroom. To see this, look no further than Maine schools.
Our teachers not only plan lessons, they plan practices serving as athletic coaches and club advisors. They encourage students to develop new interests, explore their passions and become well-rounded individuals. And these are just their official roles.
Many teachers often find themselves serving in unofficial capacities as well. With the growing number of students coming from food-insecure homes, living in poverty or dealing with trauma our educators are also serving as bridges to resources. All the while trying to keep attendance and test scores up.
As a former public-school teacher and school administrator, I’ve seen firsthand the growing pressure put on teachers without the necessary resources and support. Class size, particularly in elementary schools, has increased dramatically making it more difficult for the most seasoned teachers to manage a classroom. It also adversely influences student learning, as research shows that smaller class size is linked to educational attainment.
Another major change in education is the massive influx of standardized testing. Our students are now tested more than ever, and I believe to the detriment of their education. Test results have become the priority as opposed to the actual learning. It’s no wonder we are seeing high-rates of burnout and strikes across the country. Our teachers and children deserve better.
A recent study from NPR found that most teachers have resorted to using their own funds to fill substantial resource gaps and purchase school supplies - all while maintaining second jobs to make ends meets. About 80 percent of teachers surveyed stated they routinely purchase materials for the classroom. In fact, the average teacher pours around $250 into their classroom each year - that’s money that could purchase groceries, pay bills or go to retirement. We can and should do better for our teachers and students. If we don’t, we will struggle to attract young people to this profession and retain quality educators.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s take a moment to recognize the work that Maine educators do each and every day to shape the next generation of Maine adults. I hope this week also marks the beginning of a larger conversation about investing in our public education system and teachers going forward.
As always, I am ready and willing to listen to my constituents. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (207) 287-1515, if you have questions or comments.