This week is Teacher’s Appreciation Week. I have always respected and admired the incredible passion that teachers give to their profession. I’ve often wondered why there has to be a dedicated week to appreciate a teacher ― teachers should be appreciated every single day. Along with first responders, I feel teachers are the most underpaid professionals in the U.S. Despite the low pay; I am proud to say that my “Millennial” son is studying to become a high school History or English teacher. He’s half way through his first four years and is looking forward to helping teens find their way and become successful adults. He also spends time helping kids in impoverished areas learn to read.
There has been so much talk about how the Millennial Generation is full of whiners and entitled selfish crybabies. It is simply not true. I have written a lot about the Millennial Generation. I feel they will end up being the most influential and giving generation to date. Millennials are starting their careers focussing on purpose before paychecks. Most new teachers are Millennials, but 60% of them will leave the profession within the first five years. That is alarming, and a sure sign that our archaic education system is not adapting fast enough to meet the needs of their new Millennial workforce. It is critical that school districts provide generational engagement and communications training for everyone from the superintendent down to the janitors. A recent Gallup study of 1,733 public school superintendents found that just 6% strongly agree that their school district understands the needs of millennials in the workplace.
I recently read, for the second time "The Smartest Kids in the World" by Amanda Ripley. In her book, she compares our education system with 30 member industrialized nations in the world that participate in the Pisa Assessment test, and it is not pretty. You would be surprised to see the countries that rank ahead of the United States in Reading and Math. While there are many reasons we fall short versus countries like Finland, or Korea, the one constant was the way teachers are compensated and respected in the top ranked countries.
Eleven countries pay their teachers more than the U.S. despite the fact that the U.S. spends the most money (per student) on education than any other nation. Respect is another glaring difference. Teachers in China have the greatest respect from people in their country, according to research examining attitudes to teachers around the world. It was the only country where people compared teachers most closely to doctors, with the majority of places opting for social workers, and in the case of the US, Brazil, France and Turkey, librarians. The US ranked in the middle of the Global Teacher Status Index, beaten by South Korea, Turkey, Egypt, and Greece.
The UN estimates that the world will require an additional 12 million teachers by 2020 and all of them will be Millennials. We should be excited that this new generation of teachers will enter the profession with a purpose mindset and make sure we do all we can as a society to nurture that "purpose" every chance we get. And that means we each need to thank a teacher every day and not wait until the second week of May to show your appreciation for the great work they are doing to develop our future leaders.
Now I challenge you to call, send an email or text a teacher right now. It could be your child's teacher or even that teacher that helped make you who you are over 30 years ago. So with that said, I will end by saying Thank You to Mrs. Jan Lapp, my 11th Grade English teacher. Now...Your turn.