I was raised by public school educators. My mom taught elementary school and my dad spent the majority of his career in secondary and district level administration. I saw firsthand the work, dedication and compassion that being a teacher required. I also taught for nine years myself before my children were born and count that time as the hardest work of my lifetime. But now, just 13 years since I left teaching, teachers face incredible challenges that did not exist when my parents and I were still in the profession.
In a 2022 Merrimack College Teacher Survey, only 12% of teachers said they’re “very satisfied” with their jobs, citing a constantly growing workload, understaffing, lack of resources and support, student disengagement, and being put at the center of political and cultural debates that have splintered the nation. More than half of teachers surveyed indicated they would advise their younger self against pursuing a career in education.
It is important to note that this was a national survey, but our local schools aren’t immune to the challenges reflected in the results.
Teachers and administrators in the Peninsula School District have spent the last two-and-a-half years responding to and recovering from the necessary changes forced by the pandemic. They pivoted, adapted, accommodated and were flexible in their work to best meet the needs of their students. PSD teachers have found creative ways to make resources go further and bridge gaps in student learning and behavior. They’ve worked together to best serve the needs of their students and the greater community, and we are all better off for it.
Teachers and staff in our district have also been at the epicenter of political culture wars.
Fringe groups in the community have blamed them for “teaching Critical Race Theory” (not ever part of the curriculum), challenged the implementation of a state law requiring comprehensive sex education (which the district has already been teaching for years), and questioned the resources, curriculum and standards used in their classrooms. School board meetings have become a breeding ground for anger and hostility, social media posts and comments place spurious blame on teachers, and the challenge of teaching amid spreading controversies grows.
It is no wonder so many teachers are dissatisfied.
I have three children who started in three different PSD schools this fall. I have again witnessed firsthand the enthusiasm, dedication and care they have experienced as a new school year launched. It’s also made clear to me what our teachers and school staff need in order to be satisfied in their work and thrive amongst challenges.
Our teachers need parents as collaborators, not combatants.
Every parent has the right to be in communication with their child’s teacher as concerns arise, but they don’t have the right to be hateful and cast aspersions.
Our teachers need freedom to teach, not fear of retaliation. Teachers are highly trained professionals and by limiting their ability to access resources, engage in flexible instruction and rely on their experience, our students will suffer.
Our teachers need our trust, not a takeover. Attending school board meetings angry about assumptions and issues manifested or manufactured on social media isn’t helpful to teachers or our students. Blaming teachers for things that aren’t even happening in their classrooms is dangerous.
We’re only a few weeks into the new school year but I have confidence this will be my kids’ best year yet. And when questions or concerns emerge, I’ll remember that their teachers are engaged in the hardest work of their lifetimes.
Meredith Browand is a mother and activist who lives in Purdy.
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