What responsibilities fall to our teachers? Connect the next generation with new knowledge? Ensure students pass a test or meet a given threshold of performance? These objectives are included in the job description, but they aren’t the whole story. National Teacher Appreciation Week provides a welcome opportunity to celebrate the ways in which our nation’s educators set students up for success — and what that means.
Students strive not only to meet academic standards but also to become competent participants in their communities, contributors to the economy and engaged citizens. The teachers who are charged with developing these competencies in students are the very caretakers of our democratic society. Membership in the education profession obligates teachers to fulfill dual roles of scholarship and citizenship.
1. Speak the truth
As professionals, teachers must speak up for what they know to be true, especially when others are broadcasting fallacies about matters that fall within teachers’ realm of expertise.
2. Be allies for all
Take care that all students in the community are afforded conditions of learning that are free from fear. One size does not fit all when it comes to providing supportive contexts, and every student deserves equal protection from hostile environments. Rather than seeing fellow educators as competitors, teachers have to be strong allies and common advocates for supportive learning conditions.
3. Advocate for students
Help every student find the future they are passionate about. Teachers are the foot soldiers charged with helping students develop their aspirations and learn how to fulfill those aspirations. As 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples said, “Every student has greatness in them, and it is the work of the teacher to help them discover it.”
4. Invest in the public good
Act as a citizen and as a member of the profession at every opportunity. Teachers are among the most educated members of their communities and have an obligation to serve as a local asset, engaging in public meetings and grassroots efforts that serve the greater good.
These roles require courage and versatility, particularly in today’s volatile political context and vast diversity of student backgrounds. Advances in education research, innovation and technology, however, help empower teachers to fulfill their charges more confidently and efficiently. What’s more, when professional educators support each other’s work and unite around shared goals, they position themselves, their students, and their whole communities for success.
Please join me in celebrating the educators bringing these goals to life on behalf of all learners in our democracy on Teacher Appreciation Day — and every other day.
Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), [email protected]