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Properly Supported Teachers Are The Backbone of Positive Academic Experiences

By: Anavi Prakash

A teacher teaching a class of students this past week

When I look back at my time in high school, some of the most influential people in my life were my teachers. The teachers who I had inside jokes with made me look forward to class every day. The teachers who taught me valuable lessons (whether I liked it or not) built me into the person I am today. Due to my experience, I know teachers are the backbone of not only a good education but a positive school experience. Thus, I strongly believe teachers need to be given the proper resources to teach and live, making the career more appealing and giving more students impactful teachers.

Currently, there are teacher shortages across the country. These shortages are a signal that fewer people are interested in teaching and their consequences are dangerous. With their teacher constantly changing, students are subject to different teaching techniques, different interpretations of the material, and different ways of measuring achievement. This not only hurts their ability to learn but lowers their academic achievement. Furthermore, with many classes being taught by substitute teachers, school districts are spending funds searching for full-time teachers and going through the hiring process. These are funds that could easily be spent elsewhere if they were available. Instead of attempting to retain teachers, districts keep trying to create backup plans for when they need another substitute. Sub after sub, students are hurt, and the field of teaching gets diminished.

The solution is simple: retain teachers. However, to do so, teachers must get proper pay and benefits. Currently, teachers with a bachelor’s degree or higher are paid between $53,000 and $58,000 a year. After taxes and insurance payments, they have $30,000 to live. That is not nearly enough. 66% of independent undergraduates make over $20,000, meaning teachers only make 50% more than they did if they worked as undergraduate students in college. This is why young people are turning away from becoming teachers.

Last year, in my AP Econ class, our teacher asked us to raise our hands if we were thinking about going into teaching. Only one person raised their hand. Our teacher told us that 15 years ago, half the room would have their hands up. Some students, who kept their hands down, said they would have considered the profession, but there wasn’t any money in it. Translation: fewer and fewer people want to teach because they can’t make a decent living off of it. They’re looking to survive rather than working in a field they love. This is a huge part of why the teacher shortage exists.

An NPR poll found that 86% of teachers said they spend their own money--from that $30,000--on school supplies. 77% of teachers spend time outside of school helping students. 42% of teachers work a second job to make ends meet. One thing is clear from these stats: Teachers who stay with the profession love what they do. They are passionate about what they do and they genuinely want to do it. However, 93% of polled teachers also said they are asked to do too much compared to what they are paid. And yet, they keep working. This demonstrates how some teachers are so passionate that they will keep teaching no matter what. It also shows potential teachers how large their workload is. Proper compensation is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is an argument to be made that instead of spending more resources on teachers, the funds and resources should be used to help students achieve more academically, even with substitute teachers, since the goal of school is to create successful students. However, a University of Missouri study found that positive student-teacher relationships result in better teaching because teachers teach “hard skills” like reading and arithmetic, but they also show compassion and kindness. By building relationships with their students, teachers are more eager to teach and students are more eager to learn from someone they trust. With eagerness comes passion, and the education field will not flourish as much as it would without teachers being properly compensated and given the proper resources, which will make the job more appealing and end the shortages that currently exist.

My hope, ultimately, is that every student has the same positive experience I had with my teachers, which led to a positive experience with school. However, this all starts with ensuring teachers have the compensation and resources they need, so those students have teachers in the first place.

Written by intern Anavi Prakash

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