“August is the Sunday night of the school year for teachers.” -Mrs. Kelly Love
I’m just a parent, but that statement struck me like a Staples office supply truck. The week before the first week of school is a mess of school open houses, school supply runs, last minute playdates, and attempts to recalibrate my kids’ wakeup schedule by three or five hours.
How hard must that be for teachers, many of whom are also parents? How are they able to balance their own family needs with their job while under fire from right-wing media and constant underfunding of public education?
Honestly, I don’t know, but I do know that there are things each of us can do to make things a little easier for teachers and staff:
Be kind to teachers and support them when they are under attack. Whether this means writing an opEd, speaking at a school board meeting, writing to your school board or school, or pushing back on misinformed folks and angry trolls on social media. Just do it.
Sign up for your school’s staff back-to-school luncheon in August and make (or buy) something great.
Sign up for open PTA leadership positions so that fundraising can be maintained while the students and teachers continue to be supported.
Joyfully, send in supplies, gift cards, and thank you notes, as you are able.
Commit to regular volunteering in the classroom for Elementary School teachers. Personally, my favorite is art room support, where I can quietly prepare art supplies or actively support the teacher and students in class.
In Fairfax, VA, some parents have pulled together a Facebook group to share teacher and staff wishlists for technology, books, and other school supplies. The group is an amazing effort to link those who wish to support teachers with teacher and staff Wish Lists. In the 2020-21 school year, it is estimated that teachers spent an average of $750 out of pocket on school supplies, including basic supplies and inclusive/adaptive materials.
Locally, many PTAs help fund teacher needs, but the most they can provide is about $100/teacher, which can cover some basics, but not all the needs in a diverse classroom that supports learning of as many as 35 students. The organizers have even identified Title 1 Elementary Schools for additional support. This is important, as Title 1 schools rarely have as much PTA funding or fundraising capability as schools with wealthier parents.
The DC area saw a spike of teacher resignations at the end of the 2021-22 school year. There are a myriad of reasons, but one that I have heard over and over is echoed by Kimberly Adams, former President of the Fairfax Educators Association, “Teachers are just feeling attacked by the public on every front. I don’t think we’ve heard enough from the people who support us.”
Unless we do our part, the teacher shortage is expected to intensify across the nation. It is imperative that you find time, energy, and (if possible) money to show your support for teachers this August and for the rest of the school year. The quality of your child’s education may depend on it.
As one special education teacher, David Walrod posted on his social media account (used with permission):
"There is no teacher shortage. There are plenty of teachers. What we DO have is a shortage of teachers willing to continue dealing with the below-market pay, the lack of respect, the expanded responsibilities, and the attacks from certain sectors of the political spectrum."
Now, please excuse me while my kids help me choose some wish list items to purchase ;-).