School is back in session for kids around the country, and as my very own children get familiar with their new classmates and routines, I’m reminded of the incredibly important role of teachers, as well as the challenges they face in educating generation x.

In the United States, the education system is struggling. Spending per student is decreasing (though it is still considerably higher than the global average), and our kids are falling behind. Many people attribute this to lack of funding and continuing budget cuts, large class sizes, concerns about school safety and security, the rise of youth mental-health issues, and socioeconomic disparities, among others.

These are all important factors.

But I believe the roots go deeper, to a general lack of respect for our educators. While our teachers are held responsible for the performance of our children, they are not always able to hold students and, importantly, parents responsible for their roles in the educational process. Teachers in many cases are blamed when outcomes don’t meet expectations, despite a variety of circumstances beyond their control.

No organization can succeed without correct alignment between responsibility and authority — which is true for our teachers as well.

They need to have appropriate amounts of authority and respect that match their responsibilities, which are tremendous.

Yet it’s often the opposite: While they are responsible for educating our kids, their ability to hold them accountable for their work and behavior has substantially diminished during the last two decades. Without this authority, it’s difficult for teachers to be effective in their roles and obtain the respect they deserve.

And then there’s the present compensation model, another manifestation of disrespect for the profession. Teaching salaries are significantly lower than those of professions requiring similar education levels. The financial incentives for continuing education and career advancement are negligible compared with a few decades ago, while pay differences between the highest-achieving and the least-productive teachers are often minimal.

Thank goodness for the teachers who are genuinely passionate about engaging the next generation regardless of these circumstances. They are working hard to positively influence the quality and character of the individuals who definitely are our future leaders, innovators, and doers. They are helping develop the knowledge, skills, and talents in one of our country’s most important assets — our children.

And that’s all the more reason to fully invest in and uphold those who pursue and stay in this essential profession.

The teachers I am most grateful to for my own education, and who had the biggest impact in my life, are the ones who were toughest on me. They set the bar high, guiding and mentoring me, while also keeping me accountable. Whether or not I realized it at the time, these teachers were effective simply because they had responsibility and authority. I believe I’m a better person today consequently.

I bet you, too, can imagine a few teachers who took an identical approach and made a difference in your lifetime.

So how can we all encourage and support the educators of today in more confidently creating environments focused on respect and accountability? As a parent, grandparents, and role models, so what can we do at home and in our communities to understand the tough, but ever important job they've of educating our kids?

First, we need to consistently reiterate to our children that total respect for his or her teachers is a must — and to model that behavior with this own words and actions.

We also need to actively partner with our educators. Raising kids is really a collaborative effort, and when we interact to foster the next generation, we’re all taking responsibility for that success of our children in addition to our culture and society.