Listening to the Teachers of the Year

Every year, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the organization of all the heads of state agencies in charge of public K – 12 education, celebrates the incredible work of teachers by running the State Teacher of the Year contest. These are individuals nominated by their peers as representing the best of what the profession is about: creative, caring, passionate about helping children succeed. Then from among these, the CCSSO picks one of the 56 (every state and a few territories) to be the “National Teacher of the Year.”  One might say that these select few are among the best of the over 3 million public school teachers in the land, but, in some ways, they are merely a few individuals who are being recognized for the amazing work that takes place in schools each and every day.  They may be few, but they speak for many.

This year, Scholastic, the educational publisher, surveyed these 56 individuals to get a snapshot of the views of public school teachers, and they found a number of intriguing things.  They reported on only six questions, so I’m not sure if there were others, but even in those six, a number of things stand out. For starters, the support for higher standards as the best way to promote student success was almost unanimous (96%). Another finding, perhaps unsurprising, is that teachers’ least favorite thing is doing paperwork and filing reports, while their most favorite part is working one-on-one with students. These people do what they do to change lives, not to shuffle papers. And then consider their answer to the following question: “What do you feel is your biggest challenge as teacher?”.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the variety of answers given.  Instead, Scholastic reports on only one: not enough time.

So, there you have it. Those on the frontlines of education—those who’s joy is to spend time building close relationships to students and helping them learn—agree that there is not enough of it in the typical school day to really accomplish all they wish they could.  These spokespeople for the profession are speaking, and so I, for one, think we should listen.  It’s simple, really. Let’s give these heroes more time to do what they do best.