The irony of teacher appreciation week being the same week as state testing in Kentucky isn’t lost on me! As I have rushed around trying to tie up all the loose ends in my kids learning for the last week the topic of teacher appreciation has continued to weigh on my mind. Even in the midst of trying to figure out what to get my own children’s teachers to try and show how much I appreciate the love of learning that they have instilled in Jackson and Embry, my mind keeps coming back to the question, “what do teachers really need to feel appreciated?”. Don’t get me wrong, I love every card, flower and gift I have ever gotten from the sweet faces I get to teach daily as every teacher I know does. But in my mind there are lots of things teachers want to feel appreciated beyond just this special week.
Teachers want administrators that see them tirelessly working to plan lessons, grade papers, and analyze data while simultaneously loving on children, helping families, and serving their school in a variety of ways that go beyond their four walls. They want to feel like they are both seen and heard. They want to hear things like “you are doing a great job”, “how can I help you”, and “I am thankful for the work you do for our school”.
Teachers want Superintendents that know their name and see the good work they do to not only help their own students but support other teachers in their school and district. They want to feel that they are more than an employee number, test score, or highly qualified certificate and instead are seen as a human who works hard, makes decisions in the best interest of kids, and never stops trying to be better today than they were yesterday.
Teachers want students that instead answering the question of “what did you do today” with “nothing” share with their parents all the AMAZING things they got to experience that day. They want their students to go home excited to share about the awesome science lab they did, real-world math lesson they got to experience, debate they were the star of, or art project that they just finished.
Teachers want parents to ask their children every day at the dinner table what they learned that day and to stop accepting “nothing” as an answer. They want parents to send them a quick e-mail when their child comes home excited about something they learned so they know that the hours they spent preparing were well worth it for that child. They want parents to see how much they love their children and how they only have such high expectations because they know they can do it.
Teachers want community members who are more reluctant to throw stones at them after they see a bad worksheet circulating on Facebook, a sensationalized news article, or a conversation in the grocery check out line. We want our communities to see the 99 amazing things that happen every single day rather than just the occasional mistake.
Teachers want politicians who see that they became teachers not because they couldn’t do anything else but because instead they knew inspiring the next generation was their greater calling. They want to feel like their knowledge and expertise is recognized and appreciated. They want decision makers to seek their input and trust their judgement and have decisions made with them rather than for them. They want to know that there is a future in their profession and that the retirement they have diligently paid into will be their when their service is completed.
I am sure I will catch some flack for this post (I always seem to) but to me this isn’t about complaining about how teachers need to be appreciated more. I will have a wonderful week of thoughtful children and their families sending e-mails and sweet handwritten notes, a PTA bake sale that provided us with lots of treats, and I am sure a thank you email from both school and district leadership. However, in my mind teacher appreciation goes way beyond these five days and should instead be a focus year round. The best appreciation can’t be found in a store or a Pinterest board; it comes from a respect and admiration for what they do every day to shape the future of this country.