School’s out, but a teacher’s work is never done. As educators wrap up this year’s tasks and begin preparing for the fall, we thank them for all their hard work this school year. In the words of education activist Malala Yousafzai, “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”
In their efforts to be that change and inspire and serve their students, many teachers go beyond the job description. A federal Department of Education survey found that 94 percent of U.S. public school teachers reported buying supplies with their own money in the 2014-15 school year. The average spent was $479, with 7 percent of surveyed teachers shelling out more than $1,000. Teachers also give generously of their time. Public school teachers worked an average of 52.8 hours per week, according to 2004 data from the National Center for Education Statistics. In a 2022 survey conducted by Merrimack College, teachers reported averaging 54 hours per week, 25 of them directly instructing students. Most said they wanted to spend more of their time on teaching and planning, and less on paperwork and non-teaching responsibilities such as hall duty.
The work can be physically and emotionally draining. Many longtime teachers report seeing more behavioral needs in the classroom, a disruption both for the students who need help and the children trying to learn around them. The Ellsworth School Department budget included funding for two new educational technicians to assist with students with behavioral needs.
Adding to the stress is that teachers are held accountable for collective student achievement — or lack thereof — when many children lack basic building blocks of success. The kindergartner who arrives for his first day without ever having been read to or honing some social skills with playmates is already at a disadvantage. All the more so if homelife is generally unstable.
Yet, day after day, even on the bad ones, teachers rise to meet the need. And while those efforts sometimes go unnoticed, not always. The Maine Department of Education this year singled out Rebecca Edmondson, longtime music teacher at Connors Emerson School in Bar Harbor, as Hancock County Teacher of the Year. Described as living and breathing music, Edmondson strives to connect with students and, in turn, connect them with the art form. Her own inspiration? Teachers. “I teach because of the inspiring teachers who influenced me, from vibrant classroom teachers to private instructors who demanded excellence to my own family members.”
So many of us can look back on a time when a teacher provided just the right encouragement or challenge at just the right moment. When they unlocked some small wonder of the world and made us think about the big ones. When they saw potential that others had missed.
May our local teachers find some time to recharge this summer break. They deserve it.