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Op-Ed: Teacher Appreciation Week: May 7-11

By Erin P. Capuano     May 10, 2012 in Politics
Lodi - It's Teacher Appreciation Week so let's all take the time to talk about what teacher's do for children and how they can help in rebuilding our education system.
Teacher Appreciation Week means so much more than buying your teacher a mug, a card, or getting them flowers. It means taking the time to realize what they’ve done for you each day. For parents, it’s remembering that they are responsible for shaping your child’s mind and developing their educational skills, so they are better prepared for the world that awaits them after school.
I don’t think there’s a person who doesn’t remember a teacher who affected them in some way, who touched them enough that they’ve carried it with them through to adulthood. One of my teachers shaped my career choice for me at the age of 12 years old. Mrs. Napolitano, or Mrs. Nap as we called her, gave me a writing assignment in the 7th grade that would open the flood gates to a creative side no one ever knew I had. A poem, a simple assignment to write a Halloween poem completely changed my life and ever since my life has been filled with words, some that rhyme some that don’t, some that are political some that are scientific, some that are fictional, and some that even make me money. A teacher is so pivotal in the emotional and psychological development of a child, as much as their role is to teach facts and figures. A teacher provides structure provides an outlet of expression and an environment for children to socialize and develop their abilities to make friends. What happens on a day to day basis in a school is so beyond just an eight hour day, it has taken scientific studies to explain the powerful effect it has on children.
Logo for Teacher s Appreciation Week
Logo for Teacher's Appreciation Week
Teacher Appreciation Week Website
According to a new study by Rag Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard University and Jonah E. Rockoff, Columbia University studying Elementary and Middle School teachers, who were essential in raising the test scores of their students had a significant impact on those students both academically and in life skills. According to the study, the effect included lower teenage-pregnancy rates and more students moving on to college and full-time jobs. This study tracked 2.5 million students over a 20 year period and examined the quality of the teacher, and how that would matter to the student over the long term. Previous studies hadn’t gone this in depth before or for this long a range of time. The study also noted that the affect of one teacher on a student, between fourth and eighth grade, would gain $4,600 in lifetime income, compared to students with average or under average teachers. A student who had an exceptional teacher would also be 0.5 percent more likely to attend college. The Value Added Survey also found that, “Replacing a teacher whose true VA (Value Added) is in the bottom 5% with one average quality would generate cumulative earnings gains of $52,000 per student or more than $1.4 million for the average classroom; discounting 5% interest rate to age 12 yields a present value gain of more than $250,000 per classroom.” Teachers not only add value to our children, but they also add value to our already struggling public school systems.
All of this is wonderful to hear, but you might be saying why does it have to be all about money? While money may not be everything, it certainly would help build up our crippled educational system and allow schools to hire and employee more quality teachers, paying them what they deserve to retain them. I come from a family with a long line of teachers, my Aunt Patricia Begega has been a teacher for over 20 years in the Lodi, New Jersey school system, as well as my Uncle Pat Tirico, and now my cousins will be following in their footsteps, pretty big shoes to walk-in I might add. Both have dedicated their lives to teaching children , my Aunt at the Elementary level and my Uncle at the High School level and while in different fields of study, both have had significant impacts on the students they have taught. My Aunt is still highly regarded by students she had in the 6th grade, who are now in their 30s and whose children are now taught by my Aunt in Kindergarten. My Uncle is a highly respected teacher and Football coach, who had led the little town of Lodi to five State Championships and won three times, 1992, 1998, and 2005. He has been responsible for teaching young boys respect, teamwork, leadership and discipline for over 20 years; helping them transition from boyhood to young men. When we discuss teachers we are never just discussing their educational impact on a child, we always need to factor in the extra work they put in such as coaching sports, overseeing clubs, chaperoning dances, and tutoring after hours for extra help. We sometimes become so consumed with our own lives, that we don’t realize all of the extra effort some of our teachers are putting it to ensure our children have the best quality education, with the little resources they have today.
Special Education mainstreaming seems like such a young concept still, even though it’s been several years now that most states have mainstreamed their special education children in the classrooms. A thankless job for many teachers, it never gets easier, we are constantly learning of new disabilities that children must overcome in the world of education, not to mention language differences and physical disabilities and many of these teachers take it with stride. 20-25 children per classroom at times all needing very specific and very different attention, can be a daunting task and yet even with yearly budget cuts, pay freezes and parents reluctant to assist in the learning process, they still manage to teach. The children who need the most help are often the most forgotten, yet these teachers take on the tough task of trying to help them overcome those disabilities that try to hold them back, so that they can flourish in their lives. We often forget to say thank you.
There has been much debate over Tenure for teachers and whether or not this practice is obsolete with the new educational climate we have today. On either side of the coin, each has their own opinions, their own statistics to pull out to prove their point, is a job for life really necessary? Do all teachers deserve to automatically have a lifetime job position after two years of work? It’s a hotly contested issue, and while I love and appreciate teachers and what they do for youth, I do think the Tenure system is outdated and faulty. We can do better for our teachers and for our children, they deserve it. We can push our teachers to constantly want to better themselves, instead of settling for average. Merit Pay, or as the study suggests, Value Added, does come with a lot of positive things, for one it will keep pushing our teachers to want to be their best each year, setting new goals for themselves as they prepare for the next school year. It will also push students to want to do better for their favorite teachers, ensuring their positions in the school for years to follow. We need to remember that much like any other job, if an employee is not performing at standards or exceeding standards, many companies will deny them a raise or demote them until their performance improves. Test scores are not everything, a teacher’s value should not be calculated by children’s test scores as a whole. What we’ve learned throughout the years is that children learn at different paces and different rates than one another, they are like snowflakes, no two are alike. For instance, I’m a horrible test taker, it’s a very stressful act for me and I may not do as well on a standardized test than I do on the classroom tests and homework. Teachers' value should be weighed by their job performance on a daily basis, how they perform in their classrooms, how they teach, their relationship with their students and how their students perform in their classes. We are not numbers and we should not treat our teachers or their students as just another number either.
Our educational system, by all accounts, is broken we are missing the pieces we once had and we’ve lost sight of what we’re really there for. Investing in new technologies like wireless notepads, computers, and virtual learning can significantly help in a child’s development. Teaching them respect of others, tolerance, love and understanding is also a part of learning and that is something we should never forget. Teachers spend eight hours a day with your children, they see the things you may be oblivious to, so listen to them and listen when they say your child is having trouble. The one thing you never want to do is regret you didn’t heed the advice of the one person who sees them most in a day. Many parents who have lost their children to bullying I’m sure would love to have a second chance, to do something about it before it got out of hand. Our teachers are kind of like Yoda in Star Wars, very wise, sometimes very old and at times it can sound like they are speaking a foreign language, because to us the child we see at home may not be the child they deal with at school.
Investing in your child’s future is the greatest gift you can give them and that includes not just money, but time. Taking the time to be involved and get to know their teacher, work together to oversee your child’s progress and together you may get through to 18 yet! Just don’t rush, it goes by in the blink of an eye. So, take time out this week before it’s over to thank your teacher or your child’s teacher for all that they do in during the year, for taking care of your child, educating your child and preparing them for the future. A great teacher is a terrible thing to waste.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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