If you were to ask a teacher what they love the most about their job, it’s a safe bet that many would say working with students is their highlight. Unfortunately, the laundry list of difficulties that come with the profession go far beyond classroom relationships since teachers are unsupported, underpaid, and underappreciated. Teaching has never been easy, but in 2022, it feels like one of the most taxing professions ever, made increasingly difficult by the seemingly endless spread of coronavirus, as well as by administrative and parental responses to the ongoing global health crisis. On a mission to ease the burden of educators around the country, our favorite TV teacher Quinta Brunson (of Abbott Elementary) is launching a special new initiative just in time for Teacher Appreciation Month — and she really wants you to be a part of it.
In an ideal world, teachers would be considered some of the most respected members of society because of the work that they do; educating and caring for our kids nine hours a day, five days a week, 36 weeks a year is quite the responsibility. And many teachers take the duty on with a smile, with the hopes of positively influencing their students’ lives, keeping them going through even the longest days. As of late, that responsibility is even more daunting. When COVID first hit in March 2020, no one knew exactly how it would completely alter our lives; schools shut down for what we thought would only be a few days. But the weeks stretched into months and then, years, of virtual learning, and even when schools opened up again, disorganized administrative policy and confusing health guidelines contributed to a chaotic learning environment for all involved. The classroom had become a COVID hotspot and a major stressor.
Two weeks ago, I put out a journalist request on social media for teachers who wanted to vent about the issues that they faced daily at work, and my Twitter mentions and Instagram DMs were immediately flooded with entire paragraphs from exhausted educators who were more than willing to talk about the ways the school system was failing them and their students. Despite the teachers coming from every corner of the United States, much of the feedback was the same: salaries disproportionate to workload, high emotional stress within the classroom, and a lack of structural support from their respective administrations and parents of their students. Many of the teachers that I spoke with mentioned that their students were feeling just as strained as they were, sharing concerns that the kids in their classrooms showed signs of burnout and other troubling mental health issues amidst the “new normal.” As a result, teachers find themselves working even harder, simultaneously playing the role of educators, counselors, and nurses every single day.
“I love helping children, but the schools’ expectations of us as teachers just aren't’ realistic,” wrote Briana, a teacher from Houston. “It’s so hard to be motivated to work under these circumstances.”
“More than ever, there’s no sense of work/life balance,” said Ashley, a special education teacher and dean. “It’s like I’m working a job that I constantly have to recover from.”
In short, it’s not looking good. And with no end in sight to the pandemic, it’s absolutely understandable for us to feel helpless about the state of the American school system, especially when federal and local governments don’t seem to be taking the current situation seriously. Although the CDC still recommends social distancing and the continued utilization of masks indoors — have you ever seen kids actually practice social distancing, though? — many states have since tossed aside the public health agency’s suggestions, buckling under anti-masker sentiment even though the coronavirus is still highly contagious and should still be considered a major health risk, especially to children who are unvaccinated.
With all of these challenges in the classroom, what can we do to support teachers in their time of great need? Quinta Brunson has an idea of where we can start, and it’s as simple as downloading an app.
The author and actress, whose passion for education led her to create the critically acclaimed ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary, is partnering with Box Tops for Education for a new campaign that allows participants to give money back to the classroom. Box Tops, a school fundraising loyalty program that has been giving back to schools around the country for the last 25 years, believes that a child’s education is the foundation to achieving their fullest potential and understands that teachers are a key part of that development. And as someone who is a byproduct of empathetic and intentional teaching (shoutout to the real Mrs. Abbott), Brunson’s collaboration with the initiative makes sense. Through the new digital campaign TeachersMakeUsBetter, shoppers that download the Box Tops for Education app and enter referral code “TEACHERSMAKEUSBETTER” during registration can earn $5 for their school of choice when they scan their first receipt in May. Additionally, Brunson and Box Tops for Education have combined forces to donate $20,000 to Andrew Hamilton Middle School, the school that changed her life back in Philadelphia.
"I’m excited to work with Box Tops for Education during Teacher Appreciation Month," Brunson says of the digital campaign over email. "I have fond memories of Box Tops for Education as a kid, and I’m so happy to help provide support to educators. Growing up with a mom as a teacher, I eventually went on to produce and star in Abbott Elementary, and the show helps shed light on what teachers often go through, especially in under-resourced areas. I’m proud to partner with Box Tops on our shared mission of giving back and showing appreciation for teachers."
Of course, money doesn’t solve all of the problems that teachers are facing right now, but increased funding may address some of the more immediate issues that they’re dealing with. The funds raised through TeachersMakeUsBetter can be allocated to a wide range of needs, which often include practical things such as school supplies like pencils and notebooks as well as larger scale resources like mental health support and even salary increases — anything that will ease the burdens of educators and help sustain a productive, enjoyable learning environment.
Exhausted and run ragged as a result of the fractured state of our education system, teachers are struggling to stay afloat, and they need the support of their communities to keep going. This Teacher Appreciation Month, we’re celebrating their contributions inside and outside of the classroom by rallying around them.