With the close of the school year now within sight, it is appropriate to honor the energy that fuels the proverbial educational ship; teachers. On the front lines of learning, teachers provide the spark, flame, and wildfire influencing our next generation. To say that a teacher’s job is important is certainly an understatement, yet our thanks and honor of these dedicated individuals often is lacking. Teachers, for all that you do on behalf of young people with minimal pay and even less public appreciation—thank you!
The teaching profession is an easy political punching bag, criticized and marginalized by both ends of the political spectrum. With over 4 million teachers in the U.S. (equal to the number of doctors, lawyers, and engineers combined) maintaining a highly trained and motivated work force is no easy task. We call our teachers professionals, yet we pay them less money than most garbage collectors. Finding and retaining committed, dedicated individuals willing to work as educational professionals serving kids with very diverse needs is no easy task.
Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, talks about intrinsic motivation and specifically what “drives” each of us towards excellence. He (and others) points to autonomy, mastery, and purpose as three key ingredients fueling motivation. How do these elements play out in education and relate to the teaching realm? Some would point to the infatuation with “standards” and emphasis on testing as the antithesis to autonomy. Although there is truth to this analysis, a high-performing teacher is still master of their classroom and sets the tone, direction, and expectations on wide array of fronts.
Mastery is sometimes more elusive for teachers. Fully understanding what “mastery” looks and feels like is a challenge and then getting the support and direction to grow professionally is often not a priority (or well funded) within the education world. Fortunately, as an organization, Athlos Academies is providing numerous trainings that support a growth mindset headed towards mastery.
Probably the easiest motivator for educators is the feeling of “purpose” in their job. Helping young people become readers, writers, and thinkers is exciting work. On top of that, helping students grow and develop character traits such as focus, initiative, humility, and leadership are a driving force in sustaining educators.
Ultimately, it is the touch on a future life that teachers leave their fingerprints. We all have favorite teachers that we treasure and cherish and most of us can name every teacher we had for twelve years along with something that we took away from the classroom experience. Most often, that takeaway has nothing to do with academics but undoubtedly we were touched nonetheless. Teachers you ARE making a difference and your work IS valuable. Thank you for all that you do on behalf of each and every child. Enjoy a strong finish to a wonderful school year!
By: David DenHartog