Summertime is winding down, and many of us are preparing our families and children for the start of the school year. It’s these kind of moments, these transitions in life, that make us especially mindful of our loved ones and everyone who supports them.
That’s why it’s so important for us to try and take a moment to reflect and to thank all the people who have dedicated their time to making our schools and our communities better.
We all know how much of a difference a good teacher can make. We’ve all had those people in our lives, people whose example sticks with you.
A good teacher isn’t hard to spot. A good teacher can mean the difference between your child gladly telling you all about their day, and a child who doesn’t have much of anything good to say. The presence of a good teacher in a classroom is about learning, but it’s about that little bit of something more too.
School needs to be welcoming. It needs to be a fun, and safe place. And the people that work there need to want to be there.
The best teachers encourage you to do what you were born doing. They affirm in you that it’s good to be curious, it’s good to be thoughtful, and it’s good to want to seek out more. Our horizons are truly as big as we make them. A good teacher can help nourish those thoughts, a good teacher can help us grow.
They make school about something more than getting to class before the tardy bell in the morning. They make it about more than waiting for the clock to tick closer to the end of the school day.
We need to make sure that we show our appreciation for good teachers, that we personally reach out and let them know how thankful we are. But we also need to make sure that our values, our appreciation, is reflected by the decisions that the men and women we send to the state Capitol make.
Arkansas lawmakers recently voted to give a small salary increase to new teachers. That’s good news. But, we still rank in the bottom half of the nation for teacher pay. And to make matters worse, with inflation taken into account teachers in Arkansas are actually making about 5 percent less in 2019 than they were in 2009.
The 31,000 public school teachers in Arkansas deserve better. The 440,000 public school kids in Arkansas deserve better.
It’s not enough to just say we appreciate teachers. It’s not enough to be truly thankful for their work. We need to do better. That means putting aside partisan labels, and making sure that the people we elect, and send to the state Capitol, are serious about appreciating our teachers.
Their hard work, their effort, is what builds our communities. They are our neighbors, they educate our children, and they are fixtures in the schools our children grow up in. They give us real peace of mind.
We need them, we rely on them, and we should make sure they know they are appreciated.
Michael John Gray is the chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas.
(Each month, Arkansas Money & Politics will feature exclusive op-eds provided by members of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. The views in these op-eds are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Arkansas Money & Politics or Vowell Media Inc.)