Commentary: Teachers Deserve Respect

There are certain professions within our society that carry with them an inherent respect. Doctors, nurses, firefighters, soldiers – the list goes on. These people save lives. They care for the sick. They run into burning buildings. They defend our freedom.

These people, without question, deserve our gratitude and appreciation.

There is, however, another profession that deserves that same level of respect, a profession that, for whatever reason, does not always seem to receive it: teaching.

Teachers work with minds. Teachers work with hearts. Teachers work with souls. They are preparing the next generation of doctors, nurses, firefighters, and soldiers (and countless other professionals). And yet, many people act as though that’s something that anybody can do. It isn’t. Teaching requires years of schooling and training, and even then, the job is not easy.

Some teachers are fortunate to have students with wonderful support systems: a loving family, a caring community. Many teachers are not. Far too often, a teacher is the only positive influence in a child’s life. Nevertheless, people expect teachers to perform miracles.

And they do. Every day.

It is a miracle that is every bit as complicated as brain surgery when a teacher can reach a child who might have come to school unfed. Or is scared of getting bullied after school. Or walks home to an apartment without power. Or wants to give up because that day’s lesson was too difficult.

Teaching under those circumstances is not easy, but that is the reality many teachers face. Sometimes society hands teachers a bouquet of flowers, all perfectly clipped, manicured, and cared for; other times, society hands teachers a diamond in the rough. We expect teachers to uncover the promise of every diamond, and so often they do.

Nevertheless, few people thank teachers for their service. Some teachers go to work not knowing what they’ll encounter that day. Some teachers leave work not knowing if they’ll make it home. Their patience is often tested. So is their safety.

Teaching is a noble profession. It goes beyond lessons and lectures. It is not a 9-to-5 commitment; it is a way of life. Society needs to understand and appreciate that.

It also needs to support the next generation of educators. If a student expresses interest in becoming a teacher, we should encourage that student to follow his or her passion. In fact, I encourage aspiring teachers to join Educators Rising, a program that gives high school students an opportunity to see if teaching is the right profession for them. I also invite Ohio P-12 public education teachers to celebrate their profession and participate in The Patton College’s “Why I Teach!” video contest. First place wins $1,000.

Many professions deserve our respect. Teaching is certainly one of them. I would like to wish everyone, especially our teachers, a happy holiday season!

Renée A. Middleton is dean of the Gladys W. & David H. Patton College of Education at Ohio University.


Renée A. Middleton

Ohio University