Just for the record, I have never been a teacher.
I have had a lot of teachers over the years, of course, including several who changed my life in the most wonderful and unexpected ways. I also was raised by a teacher, and eventually married one, and have had many, many friends who chose to make teaching their life’s work.
So I think, perhaps, that I have learned at least a tiny bit over the years about what teachers need when it comes to job satisfaction. Yes, they need money —that’s a given — and the proposed budget that Goochland School Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Raley shared last week, which features a proposed 3 percent raise for all employees who achieve a rating of proficient or better on their end-of-the-year evaluation, is definitely a step in the right direction.
I also would point out, however, that in all my years of spending time with my husband’s colleagues, interviewing teachers for stories, and hanging out with friends who were educators, it was rarely the salary that they talked about. After all, most people I know who went into education seemed to accept that they were never going to wheel into the teachers’ parking lot in a Bentley.
Even the notoriously long work days teachers face never appeared to sour anyone I knew on the profession.
No, in fact, the one unmet need I heard most often from nearly every teacher I met came down to just one word: support.
Salary increases are fantastic and certainly appreciated, but in the end they may not be as important as a leadership team that stands behind its teachers and supports them through thick and thin.
Show me a school where teachers feel safe, where they feel respected, where they feel as though their concerns are addressed and their time valued, and I’ll show you a group of professionals whose job satisfaction ratings are sky-high.
Just about every teacher I have ever met went into the profession because they wanted to help children and impact lives, not for the money or prestige. But teachers today are often carrying burdens that can take a tremendous toll, up to and including having to be the de facto “parent” for students who are not given adequate discipline or emotional support at home. What they need more than anything is an administration willing to go to bat for them.
In the relatively brief time I have been acquainted with Goochland’s school division, it would appear that the leadership has always attempted to put teachers first, and to give them the support they need to succeed.
This is as it should be, and the results clearly translate directly into the classroom.
You want a strong school system? Hire the right people. You want to keep the right people? Make sure they know you’ve got their back.
It may not be a line item in the budget, but its impact cannot be denied.