In my days as a teacher, I found it difficult to believe that we, as teachers, lacked genuine support. Each time the issue surfaced, I would reassure myself, thinking surely, beneath the surface, we have a foundation of support.
The low pay? I would attribute this to politics within the education system. The instances when I, like many colleagues, paid for classroom supplies? I would sigh, accepting that is just how public education operates. Even when confronted with the notion that some saw teaching as a 'fallback' profession, I would shake off the slight, reflecting on my passion and the dedication of fellow educators. Our primary focus is, and should always be, the students. But that doesn't mean we should overshadow the needs of teachers. After all, valuing teachers is intrinsically tied to valuing education.
When I transitioned from teaching to advocating for teachers, a stark realization dawned on me: the sentiment that 'no one supports teachers' holds more truth than we would like to admit. My unique vantage point, both within and outside of education, offered me this clarity. While there are undoubtedly champions for teachers, they are sadly outnumbered. And now, more than ever, I grasp the reasons behind this disparity.
The Writing Was on the Wall From the Very Beginning
When we launched our startup, we did what most new ventures do: we excitedly tapped into traditional media and dived into the vibrant world of social channels, hoping to broadcast our unique mission. We didn't expect fanfare merely for arriving on the scene, but we were confident that our focus on teachers would strike a chord in society's heartstrings. To our dismay, the tepid reception was an eye-opener, hinting at the uphill battles awaiting us in our crusade to champion educators.
Our initial interactions revealed an uncomfortable truth: rallying behind teachers wasn’t as widespread or enthusiastic as we had imagined. What's more, the underlying reasons were intricate and sometimes unsettling. Outside the school walls, teachers are met with a tidal wave of superficial 'support'. Memes, lighthearted videos, and witty anecdotes about the trials of teaching populate social media, giving the illusion of solidarity. But when the laughter fades, the tangible support is often lacking. Why, in a country with millions of educators and parents, do we find ourselves resorting to crowdfunding for basic classroom needs?
Likewise, mainstream media often sidesteps the narratives of educators, while platforms claiming to be 'teacher-centric' have questionable practices. Consider this: while the average teacher earns about $40k annually, these so-called teacher-focused platforms charge companies between $9k to $40k to aim a single ad at educators. And how do they get the teachers' contact details? By scouring the web and, yes, selling those addresses. If these platforms genuinely valued their teacher audience, wouldn't it be just and fair to share a slice of these hefty earnings with the very educators they claim to serve?
Let Me Explain
My commitment to supporting teachers is unwavering. After dedicating fifteen years to a career in education, I pivoted, making significant personal and professional sacrifices, all with the singular goal of championing and uplifting educators. I desire to stand by them, not just as an advocate but as a confidant and ally. Yet, it feels as though invisible barriers are everywhere, thwarting my efforts consistently. It may have begun with our initial outreach, but this continual resistance has given me a unique insight into the broader issue: the pervasive lack of support for teachers. The reality: no one supports teachers, and here is the tip of the iceberg regarding why.
To illustrate the challenges faced in supporting teachers, consider my experience. I founded a company explicitly designed to support and empower teachers. Their unique needs are at the forefront of our mission. The principle is simple: if we address and streamline the concerns of educators, they can more effectively concentrate on what truly matters—their students. However, I can't even begin to offer support until I overcome a series of significant hurdles.
And it is not just me, or my company, facing these hurdles.
Highlighting these challenges isn't about finger-pointing. It's a call to reality and a call to action. If we genuinely wish to make strides in education, we must ensure that teachers are at the forefront, armed with all the support they need.
Fighting Through the Educational Labyrinth
First up, the challenges of gatekeepers are daunting. We are not just talking about school districts but also administrative personnel, intricate digital systems, and the myriad of unspoken political policies that linger in the shadows. A significant concern is the shift in priorities of school principals. While data — especially student data — has become their North Star, the intrinsic connection between teacher support and improved student outcomes seems overlooked.
Similarly, districts also appear disconnected from teacher needs. A case in point is my experience with my own company and our online platform. Despite its proven and clear benefits for educators, its accessibility remains an unexpected challenge. Multiple districts have created digital barriers, often easily removable with a simple whitelist procedure. Yet, these hurdles persist, not because of inherent risks (the platform is both teacher and student-friendly) but often because teachers, burdened as they are, are unaware they must voice their needs.
Teachers might not always be aware of the need to request website approval, but even when they do, there's no guarantee their requests will be granted. School districts frequently reject clearance requests coming from educators, focusing more on the origin of the request than its content, intention, or benefits. This practice limits teachers' access to beneficial tools and creates a challenging landscape for companies looking to provide ed-tech support, even when the demand from educators is palpably high.
The Second Hurdle: Recognizing the Value of Teachers
Engaging with numerous principals over time has made one thing clear: while not universally true, many school leaders do not prioritize their teachers as expected. Not to say they lack concern entirely, but the depth of their commitment to educators often seems less than the trust and dedication these teachers invest in their leadership. While exceptions always exist, too many principals appear reluctant to foster growth or introduce innovative approaches within their institutions.
The hesitation remains even when the risks are minimal or non-existent. A prevailing notion suggests that direct student engagement is the sole pathway to improving education. However, many school leaders overlook a fundamental truth: to uplift students, we must first empower the teachers guiding them. The question then emerges: Why would any organization invest effort in advocating for teachers if school leadership, through their actions and words, primarily emphasizes students and parents, often overshadowing the needs of the educators?
Painting a Real-World Picture
Our company received district clearance to collaborate with a specific set of schools, ensuring that teachers had the backing they needed. We had undergone thorough evaluations, ticking all the boxes. Yet, we were shocked when numerous principals declined our offer to provide their teachers with complimentary support. This situation, and our offer, was not a high-risk gamble or a financial burden. It was simply a straightforward helping hand.
If teachers had been privy to these refusals, their being disappointed would have been an understatement. Time after time, the pattern persisted: a transparent disconnect between the school leadership and the day-to-day challenges their teachers face. Perhaps these principals were swamped with other responsibilities – but their overt neglect of their teacher's well-being was strikingly evident. Their decision to forgo cost-free, validated assistance was deeply troubling, especially when witnessed by someone who transitioned directly from the classroom to championing teachers.
The Third Hurdle: The Teacher Dilemma
At times, the most significant barrier to educator support can be the teachers themselves. Their hesitation to stand up for their profession is often a problem. Are they embracing avenues to enhance their daily experiences and champion their cause? For meaningful change to occur, educators must be proactive and receptive to innovation. It is not about convincing teachers of their value but empowering them to recognize and advocate for it. Educators need to believe in their worth and be open to accepting assistance when presented.
A disheartening realization that I cannot shy away from, and have had to confront, is that many teachers seem to have come to terms with their lack of support. They all too readily accept it as inevitable. Some feel underserved because they do not see their worth. Others question their value and worth because of neglect. Regardless, a troubling cycle exists.
Only when educators see themselves as valued professionals can they truly demand and expect the treatment and resources that match their significance. And while it is crucial to understand that the 'larger' system plays a significant role in this disparity, teachers must also recognize their role. They are not wholly to blame for the inadequate support they receive. But teachers do bear some responsibility for how they perceive and position themselves within the educational ecosystem.
As a company supporting educators, when we have extended a hand of free support, the response has often been marked by hesitancy. Educators’ initial skepticism sometimes makes it evident that they have not paused to consider whether there might be a more effective approach to their work. Navigating through these layers of caution has become an immense challenge. Now, it is essential to note that this is not the narrative for every educator. But, it is a recurring theme that has emerged in my early days of championing for teachers.
Their reluctance to embrace change, even when it promises to elevate their professional journey, lighten their burdens, and reignite their passion, is frustrating and confusing. The underlying anxiety in accepting solid, risk-free assistance further underscores a poignant truth: if educators refuse to champion their own needs, it begs the question — who will? Whether it's a principal, a district, an in-house tech team, or a company such as mine, the support chain starts with self-belief.
The myth is that teachers are not supported. Having stood on both sides of this divide, I wonder: Is this merely a popular opinion or an uncomfortable truth we often ignore? As I have dug deeper, I've encountered revelations that, while unsettling, have shed light on the reality of support for teachers. I am far from satisfied with the current state of affairs regarding how teachers are supported. But given what I have learned, the present situation is not entirely unexpected.
And when I look at the bumps in our current education system, I can’t help but think: Maybe our half-hearted support for teachers is where the trouble starts, whether with the media, the public, or education leadership. And if that is the case, we have some big decisions to make: How are we, as a society and as educators, going to fix this?
A New Narrative
My current stance involves unwavering dedication to uplifting and empowering teachers. I have created a company, Fetchy, that supports teachers. Our platform empowers educators, granting them autonomy for the future's educational shifts. We provide transparent solutions at fair prices, empowering educators with a virtual secretary. Beyond this, we champion the community through scholarships and media partnerships spotlighting teachers' achievements. Furthermore, in collaboration with school administrators, we cater to educators' unique needs with solutions tailored just for them.
Still, I recognize this is merely the beginning. We are just now opening the initial chapter in a lengthy journey to transform education for the better. And while the prevailing sentiment might suggest that no one supports teachers, there's a shift on the horizon. It might be better to say, 'No one supports teachers—yet.' But as the tides turn, we're committed to rewriting the narrative.