The Underappreciated, Underpaid, and Overworked Teacher Is Ready for Change
Teachers are often underappreciated in their communities. The lack of appreciation also transends into how they are valued in the workplace and within hiring committees. That's why it's important to discuss strategies for recognizing the source of why a teacher may feel underappreciated and examine options for making a change. Teachers are essential members of our communities and they deserve to be respected and appreciated.
How Can We Appreciate Teachers Year Round?
So today's episode is a real treat, because JoDee and I are actually in the same location in New Orleans. But it's also a really unique time, because we're coming off the heels of Teacher Appreciation Week. And we want to talk today about some of the concerns our listeners have reached out about. So we've explored why teachers are leaving, but one of the most important reasons that doesn't get a lot of attention is the feeling of being underappreciated. Now, we know that other public servant professions have similar experiences to a feeling underappreciated. So that's going to be our discussion today, between JoDee and myself. Are they special guests?
Yes, we are. I do feel like a special guest, because I am in your guest room, and you've been a lovely host. Thank you. Um, yeah. So how do you show appreciation year round to the educator? How can you make them feel like their job is valuable that they are valuable. And to add to that labor appreciation? I want us to just think about and look at teacher appreciation from the angle of our communities, the workplace, which we know is important, because school climate culture can certainly impact how and if a teacher feels appreciated, and also want to just think about hiring committees. That's what we're here, you know, that's what we're here for. After all, how can hiring committees outside of the classroom appreciate a teacher's resume when they're thrown into the candidate pool?
Teachers Don't Get the Respect They Deserve
That's the question. So I mean, as a former teacher, I think it's respect the teaching profession, along with other public servants, they just don't get the same amount of respect as jobs like lawyers and doctors, and we're just not seen in the same light. But it takes a teacher to help make that lawyer and doctor, right, you just don't become a professional. You had teachers along the way, who helped you, hopefully inspired you, taught you cared for you. And we need to recognize that teachers need more than just one week, and they just need that level of respect to be treated like other professionals.
Yeah, Ali, I couldn't agree with you more. When we unpack our perceptions of a profession like this, we can learn about our true feelings towards teachers. And I'm not just talking about teachers, perceptions of teachers, but all perceptions of teachers. We're all stakeholders in education, everyone is impacted by the system.
One thing JoDee and I have talked about is what the title teacher means in the outside world. So for example, when we're career changing, when we are applying to serve on nonprofit boards, I do a lot of volunteering in my community, I do a lot of volunteering in the nonprofit world. And I finally got to a point in my career, where I wanted to apply to be on an advisory board. And I was really passionate about the organization that I was applying for. And I submitted my application and at the time, I was a teacher. And I never made it past the first round, never made it to the interview process. Fast forward several years later, no longer a teacher have a varied resume. I've grown also, as an individual got an interview, I'm now serving on an advisory board. It's hard for me to believe that this is just a coincidence, because I also know from listening to other educators trying to transition that when they had the title teacher on their resume, they didn't receive an interview, they had to be a bit of a wordsmith with their role, right, instructional coach, and educator or, you know, go dive deeper into what their day to day roles were in changed their title officially on their resume. And that, to me really just shows and highlights where teacher falls in the public view.
A wordsmith that couldn't be more real. I'm glad you pointed that out. What I'm hearing you say is your the under appreciation that you felt was on the outside world, not so much in your in your school setting. But when you went to go pursue other opportunities, that's when you felt that under appreciation and I have a connection with that because that's that's where I that's how I felt underappreciated from that respect. That's not always the case for all teachers. And as we've learned through a lot of the DM's that we get educators actually feel underappreciated within their classroom, within their building within their district, so it varies for everyone. But my experience was similar to yours and that I started to learn the under appreciation. When I started to apply for jobs, it was almost like I was invisible. And that title was not helping me get into a candidate pool for a possible job interview. And so I had to learn quickly how to curate my resume to really get somebody's attention. And the interviews that I did get, were through connections that I had with people. But the job that I took, I did not have a connection, they obviously had an appreciation for teachers through the that application process from January all the way to July, I wasn't getting a lot of traction on my applications, I had a spreadsheet of all of these jobs, and I really started my self esteem started to plummet. And I was I felt like my value was not being appreciated as a teacher who built up all of these skills. And I was being unnoticed until I started to learn how to curate that in the right way and use my network outside of school to help me with that.
There has to be a reason for this shared experience between crafting our words carefully curating our resumes differently, and rebuilding our networks, which are not unusual practices when you're job hunting. But teachers have to rewire their brains a bit when it comes to applying for non teacher jobs. And to be frank non teachers need to rewire too.
And I think we can also talk about the elephant in the room, which is the pandemic which raised a lot of attention to the underappreciated teacher.
What Happened to the Temporary Love that Teachers Were Shown during the Pandemic?
Yeah, I remember back to the beginning of the pandemic, there was this immediate response from parents and from supporters of children who were in schools that teachers should make a million dollars a year, because it's so tough to be at home with your kids, you know, we're pivoting to virtual learning, but everything wasn't set up yet. And parents were freaking out, and they didn't realize how much work teachers do. But, as the weeks went by, pretty quickly, things turned around, and we started to hear different things about teachers, like, what are these teachers doing all day or so and so doesn't know what they're doing. And as much as like even having parents jump on the zooms, and school teachers in front of their whole entire class, and it just, it was at the beginning, I was so excited, I finally thought Yes, teachers are going to be valued for for what they are, you know, people are seeing our value, they're seeing the hard work. And I mean, I was so appreciative, my of my own children's teachers, like I couldn't have thanked them enough. I wanted to support them as much as I could. During that time, I just kept sending them thank you emails for everything they were doing. But I came at it from a different approach. And you and I both saw in this virtual world, that the teachers were not being treated that well.
You're exactly right. And you know, you and I both had that teacher mom lens during that time, too. So that was really tough to balance. You are a mom, who wants the best education for your child. But you're also a teacher. And you know, the struggles of making that transition online. And having kids sit in front of a screen, which is never the case in a classroom. You're right, there was this flood of support, and then it changed very, very quickly. So that was really tough. And I do I do think that the pandemic shed a lot of light on how our society values teachers, or does not value them, which leads to that under appreciation piece.
Yeah, absolutely. The other difficulty for educators this time, and I saw it with my own children's teachers, but also my friends who were teachers because, like you, a lot of my friends are still the teachers that I taught with, but the pressure on teachers grew during that time, too. So teachers, most teachers do go above and beyond right, they put in extra time they bring the work home with them. And and I recently learned about a new nationally representative survey that was conducted by Merrimack College to look at what a typical teacher puts in the classroom. How many hours do they work in and outside of the classroom. So 1,300 teachers responded, and they found that a typical teacher works about 54 hours a week with just under half the time involving actual classroom instruction. That's the average to
I I definitely believe that. And you know, during the pandemic, I remember the most spirited teachers that I knew, being so beat down. And that really hit me pretty hard. When those teachers that I've looked up to, were feeling beat down, that's when you're like, this is this is a problem. And I don't think that they've all recuperated yet.
Absolutely. They have not, there's just no way I'm because they went from all the pressure in the virtual world, to then transitioning back into the classroom, sometimes under tense circumstances. And then there, there, of course, was some learning loss. And now there's the pressure again, to perform. There's high stakes standardized testing. There's just kids who need a lot of extra support, and who is the who are the ones supporting them, the teachers, and they just, they're just burnt out and in a in a very real way. And I think, if they felt appreciated and valued, it's a different way to deal with like burnout or fatigue. But when you don't really feel that except for one week out of the year, it's it's challenging.
Yeah. And it's very possible that post pandemic, there are newfound perceptions of teachers. And this can change an educators opportunities, depending on who is doing the hiring, how much do they appreciate a teacher?
How do you think someone can recognize the root of why they're feeling underappreciated?
I would think about I would stop and start inward and progress outward. Why do you feel underappreciated? Who is making you feel that way? Center yourself in the classroom? Is it your workload? Is it your students that you don't feel appreciated by? Is it parents? Is it your team, your support staff, your admin? Or is it wider district officials? And perhaps it's not even school related like you and I, when I started applying outside of the classroom for jobs, that's when I felt underappreciated that the people reviewing my resume could not see my value and address it from there.
Solutions for Teachers Who Feel Underappreciated
Absolutely. And I know you and I have talked a little bit about some solutions that teachers could implement. One of them be maybe changing teams, maybe the team is not a good fit for you. Be honest, too, because administrators want to retain quality teachers. And I know when you talked about your journey, leaving your administration said, Do you want to do something else? Where else can we put you? Because they didn't want to lose you. I hope, I hope that you're in a place that they will want to support you. Because if you're not, then that takes us to our next solution, you might need to change schools. And I know you've also changed schools, too. So Was that helpful? Sometimes just maybe mentally? I know, you didn't change it, within maybe the same area, but because...
Yeah it was it was night and day. It was it was the right choice. And that was a time when I had to center myself and find where, where's the root of this feeling? What are my choices?
So another option might be to start saying no, do you want to share with what that might look like for our listeners. other than teaching,
Other than teaching there are external obligations put on teachers, and actually, they're not even obligations? You know? They're there's like...
They feel like obligations though.
Yeah. So you have reading night science night, you have fundraisers, you have multicultural night, you have bookfair, all these events that happen before or after school. So there are all of these events throughout the year that you are asked to do.
And how Yeah, in high school, we have even more kind of demands placed on us as educators, a lot of times, they want you to be a coach, they want you to coach an extracurricular like, minimum, you have to be a coast or a coach or an assistant coach for one sport throughout the year, which that's a lot. Yeah, that is.
And we know, we know that a stipend doesn't cover all of those hours. So sometimes you're right. It's just saying no. And also, admin has to plan events that don't overly work educators, you have to look out and say, Is this the right thing? Do I want my educators doing this? And I want to say that point blank, parents need to stop planning extra things for teachers, they already have enough.
Absolutely. I think saying no, could be a really good strategy, or a solution for you to scale back what you're doing at your school, and hopefully stay in your role and see if that works for you. But if it doesn't, there's really the last two options that that JoDee and I talk about on the show is maybe you need to take a break and go into a related field or a different field. And then that may not be forever that may be a temporary thing. Earlier in my teaching career. I ended up leaving the classroom and I worked one year at a nonprofit, and I really enjoyed that experience. And then I felt ready to go back into the classroom after that. And truthfully, having that on my resume helped me so much when I wanted to leave teaching later on. And the last one why we're here is to talk about pivoting or transitioning careers, you know, leaving the classroom and going into something else.
And if you do decide to leave, make sure that you're moving into territory that appreciates teachers, go follow those people on LinkedIn. Find the organizations that appreciate all the skills that you bring to this new profession and ensure that they appreciate you. The last thing I wanted to add Ali, is that there's a book that if you're a teacher or a non teacher, this has helped me tremendously to understand how to appreciate others. It's called The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, by Gary Chapman and Paul white. Yeah, I was like Gary Chapman, yes, yeah, it's so like, the love languages of the workplace. So when you think about how you differentiate for your students, you have to do that for adults, too. In the workplace, you have to do that for your relationships, because you will learn a lot about yourself. And you will learn a lot about the others around you and how you can cultivate a culture of appreciation. No matter if you're a teacher or a non teacher.
Great suggestion. Thank you so much, JoDee, and I look forward to continuing this conversation again with you soon.