A Brief History
On October 5, 2018, as we do each October 5th, we celebrate World Teacher’s Day, alternately referred to as International Teachers Day, a day established in 1994 in celebration of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO setting of standards and status for teachers around the world. Originally designed to further the improvement of teachers and teaching, the day is also celebrated to honor those people who have entered the profession of education.
With a goal of “appreciating, assessing and improving the educators of the world” and to provide an opportunity to consider issues related to teachers and teaching,” World Teacher’s Day aims to improve the quality of teachers and teaching. Ensuring that teachers have adequate education themselves and access to sufficient teaching methods and supplies, as well as facilities and conditions, it is hoped that the educational process can continue to improve throughout the world and for all students, regardless of social position or wealth. Educating the public about the needs of teachers and schools is part of the program, as well as educating the public about the hurdles teachers face and the critical importance of teachers in society.
For the 2018 celebration the stated theme (by UNESCO) is to promulgate the message “The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher.” The status and appreciation of the importance of teachers is publicized and showcased, as is the importance to provide well educated and qualified teachers for students. (We interpret these stated goals to include decent pay and working conditions to attract and keep highly motivated, intelligent, and qualified people in the teaching profession.) Currently in the United States, public school teachers make an average annual salary of about $56,000 compared to the average household income in the United States of about $60,000. The difference is that teachers have a minimum of a 4 year college degree, and over 75% of teachers in the US have had at least 5 years of college. Many states require teachers to eventually get a Master’s degree (well over half of all American public school teachers have a Master’s or PhD). About 3.6 million Americans work as teachers (3.2 million in public schools), with 76% of those being females. (In light of “traditionally female” occupations having a lower social status than traditionally male occupations, part of the problem of appreciating teachers and the work they do may be rooted in systemic sexism.)
Although the primary focus of World Teacher’s Day is on primary and secondary education, there are another 1.6 million teachers (professors and instructors) at colleges and universities in the United States. Sadly, almost half that number are “part-time” teachers, often referred to as “adjuncts.” Colleges and universities have joined the many other industries and businesses in greatly expanding the number of “part-time” workers in order to get away with paying lower salaries and avoiding providing benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and job security. Obviously, professors and other higher education teachers are critically important as well as primary and secondary level teachers.
The unionization of teachers has been hotly debated in recent years, with critics blaming teachers’ unions for the increasing cost of education, while teachers claim unions are vital to the attraction and retention of well qualified teaching applicants. The anti-unionists claim the unions force school districts to retain underperforming teachers and prevent incentive to perform better in the classroom. The pro-unionists claim union protection is needed to prevent favoritism and discrimination. The issue has largely been split between Republicans being anti-teacher unions and Democrats being pro-teacher unions. (These statements are generalizations and by no means cover all politicians of either party.)
We have all (virtually all of us) have had many teachers throughout our lives. Many of those teachers did a great job, while others may have been substandard. Some of those teachers left a lasting impression on us, while others may be anonymous in our memories. Obviously, we all could have benefited from better teachers, and who among us would claim that the education and quality of teachers is not important? We stand with teachers and their students in celebrating World Teacher’s Day, and support efforts to increase the education and other tools necessary to make teachers even better able to teach our children.
Question for students (and subscribers): Tell us about your favorite teacher(s). What qualities do you like best in teachers? What traits in teachers do you find least helpful? Should teacher unions be allowed to exist in a meaningful manner, or are they obsolete? Do teachers deserve clearly better pay than the average person, or are they compensated well enough as it is? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Creative Smart Journals. Happy World Teacher Day: A Journal. CreateSpace, 2017.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Klein of a GDR “village teacher”, a teacher teaching students of all age groups in one class in 1951, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-13055-0008 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.