As parents, we rarely stop to think about the commitment and personal sacrifice that teachers make on a regular basis. It seems that the only times we communicate with our kids teachers is when there is a problem. We parents expect the teachers to stop everything and to make our children the number one priority. Well, the good news is that most teachers do exactly this. Teachers work tirelessly to make sure that every student receives the best possible education.

Let’s stop and think about this for a second. Parents expect the teachers to be available during non-school hours, to cater to the needs of the individual, and to be receptive to constructive criticism. This sounds more like an executive track Fortune 500 position! At least there, the employee who must always be at the beck and call of the customer and who has to take their fair share of heat, brings home a livable wage. Teachers are expected to fulfill the same duties, but as we all know, are not paid even a fraction of what the executive employee is receiving.

According to the US’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full time salary for a  teacher is $42,000 per year. At one time, this may have been enough to get by. Today however this salary is barely enough to live on. In Israel, the average full time salary, according to the Ministry of Education is about 10,400 NIS per month, which equals $2,672. I would like to see how many of us could live on $2,672 per month! For most of us this would be impossible. Yet, this has become the reality for most educators. These figures have been pointed out in numerous other places in the past. How can we pay the people responsible for our kids’ education so poorly?  There have been all sorts of answers and excuses over the years. In Israel, the Ministry of Education is actually proud of the salary, as it represents a 50% increase over the past decade.

So, who are these people that are willing to work long hours, receive complaints, and be paid non-living wages? If you do not know this already, most of us become teachers because we love what we do. As I have joked in many professional development programs, “if you went into education to become rich, you received some really poor career advice.” Teachers choose their profession because they want to make a difference in the world. Working with students and helping them reach their potentials are the reason why teachers get up and go to work each morning. In many school districts around the US, teachers purchase their own supplies, and take it upon themselves to provide the tools their students need. Since there is not much in their pockets to start, this is an amazing thing to think about. How many of us would pay for supplies for work from our own pockets? How many of us would hang around the office every day after hours with no overtime pay? Teachers do these things because they want our children to succeed.

You may have problems with your kids’ teachers during the course of the coming school year. They may do things which you don’t like and they may not always share your priorities. Remember though, that at the end of the day, your child’s teacher is in that classroom for only one reason, to make a difference in your child’s life. Keep this in mind and adjust the expectations accordingly. No, I am not saying that teachers should not be held accountable. If there is a problem, you as a parent have every right to complain. But, keep in mind that in most cases, the teacher will be far more successful if you treat them as a partner, not as an employee. An employee will not go out of their way for each individual student. A teacher on other hand, is here to help the children succeed.

Remember the unsung heroes who help your children reach their potential.