“Teaching is a thankless job.” Time and again I have heard my occupation referred to as being “thankless.” I have always been hesitant to agree. Some of my students have expressed thanks for what I do. Some of my students’ parents have expressed thanks for what I do. Some of my colleagues and administrators have expressed thanks for what I do. Some of my community members have expressed thanks for what I do. No, teaching is not a thankless job.
The reason the term “thankless job” keeps popping up repeatedly in reference to teaching is due to a lack of support for educators – not a lack of appreciation.
I’ve had a lot of different jobs (landscaper, janitor, security guard, factory worker, etc.). I’m grateful for all of them as they supported me financially, and each one also taught me a thing or two. However, what I did not gain from them was “thanks.” The appreciation I’ve received from being a teacher far outweighs the appreciation I gained from all of my other occupations combined. No, teaching is not a thankless job.
Teaching does lack support, however, from both those who appreciate educators and from those who do not appreciate educators. I believe this is where our discouragement begins, and grows, for most of us in the teaching profession. It isn’t the pay (which could improve), it isn’t the difficulty of the job (we seemingly face more challenges each year), and it isn’t a lack of thanks (I’ve got cards, emails, and moments that debunk this idea).
No, it is the lack of support we receive as teachers – from outside school walls and right down our school halls – that brings us down as educators and gives us the impression that we have a thankless job.
There are two main groups of people that do not support educators: 1) those outside the profession (students, parents, and community members), and 2) those inside the profession (fellow colleagues and administrators). There are many different reasons why teachers are not supported, but I am going to break it down into simple categories in order to create a concise blog post.
Lack of Support from Those Outside the Profession
- Misinformation – people receive false information regarding what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.
- Misunderstanding – people have false perceptions of what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.
- Mistrust – whether from personal experience or information they have received, people’s trust in educators has declined.
In order to gain support from those outside our profession, educators need to be proactive in providing clear and abundant information to others on the “whats, hows, and whys” of our classrooms. Doing so will help counteract the misinformation and misunderstanding others have that inevitably produce disdain and a lack of support. Also, where there is mistrust, there needs to be reconciliation. Even if we haven’t personally caused mistrust among others, it is our duty as educators to gain back trust with others with patient, persistent and purposeful actions.
Lack of Support from Those Inside the Profession
- Isolation – teachers can become a group of independent contractors who choose to struggle alone rather than overcome together.
- Separation – administrators, with different responsibilities, can separate themselves from teachers rather than connect when collaboration needs to occur.
- Misinterpretation – both teachers and administrators can choose to make assumptions about each other’s objectives rather than be open and honest with each other.
In order to work cohesively and effectively, teachers and administrators need to be proactive in creating meaningful moments of collaboration that encourage and produce open conversations, respectful relations, and unified goals. There also needs to be a consistent effort to support one another when disagreements and adversity arises.
When an individual does not feel supported, it makes sense for them to come to the conclusion that they, in turn, are not appreciated. There are many people in an educator’s life that are thankful for them, and yet when the rubber meets the road, support can be hard to find for a variety of reasons. Lack of support can quickly deflate a person, which in turn can have many negative effects.
Receiving thanks is nice, but fleeting. Receiving support is substantial, and enduring. An educator’s ultimate goal should be to help their students’ grow. Receiving support from people outside and inside our profession can help us tremendously with reaching this ultimate goal. But again, we need to be proactive – we teachers, and administrators, need to provide more support for one another, for our students, and for our community members. Taking such action would surely result in us feeling thankful, not thankless.