Once again another facet of our staff population has brought me to tears. I know it’s a lot easier to do that as I’ve gotten older, but I still think it’s justified.
At all four of our YES! Grant Prize Patrol visits this week, the school principal was able to join us to surprise the winning teacher. They walk us down to the classroom, announce our presence and beam alongside their teacher. On the way to class and back, they tell us about fun things going on in their schools or share stories about their teachers.
Without exception these building leaders are proud of their schools. They point out various art projects or class activities on display. They recount stories of student successes. They rarely talk about themselves or any role they have in making their schools effective. They are just proud.
Justifiably so, if you ask me. The principals seem almost as amazed as those outside of education at what their teachers are able to accomplish with limited support.
I asked one of them what was their top pain point so we could better gauge how we could help, and she said they needed more adults in the building. These adults would alleviate some of the pressure on the classroom teachers to be all things to all students. If we had more teacher assistance to monitor that child with a sensory issue, then the teacher could devote more time to instruction. If we had a licensed counselor in the building, we could host groups for children with a high score on their Adverse Childhood Event assessment so they could self-regulate consistently and not disrupt lessons.
When you read that 30,000 teachers have left the profession in the past 6 years, you know some of that is due to the pay, but also know most of it — two-thirds in fact — is due to a need for more people who can share the load of educating our most precious resource. It is an emotionally-taxing job. One of our donors even described teachers as first responders, because they have similar burdens to nurses and firefighters. Teachers are often the ones who find out that a child needs food or clothing. They are the first to know that a child has been neglected or hurt in the home.
Principals in our district know this, and want to do everything they can to alleviate the frustrations their teachers are experiencing. They spend money from their own pockets too, just to provide little things to show the teachers they are appreciated.
It was so heart-warming to see the enthusiasm the principals have for their staffs. I want to do more to thank them too! It’s a matter of principle. What do we really value as a society? What can we as a foundation and a community do to help those who help our teachers be their best?