A Love Letter to Teachers: Teacher Appreciation All Year Long
by rebecca stewart
We could spend our time here rehashing the immense challenges you and your cohorts have endured in recent years, but we’re finally on the other side of that global nightmare. We could talk about how grossly undervalued you are, how overwhelming your job can be, and how very much under the bus you have been thrown, politically speaking, but who wants to dwell on such ugliness? You, whose (often thankless) job is to educate our young people, somehow have found yourselves at the center of unbelievable controversy. Okay, so maybe we dwell a little.
It's not exactly heroes to zeros, but from the outside looking in, it sure has felt that way. We went from praising teachers and your Herculean efforts during the pandemic to accusing you of pushing politically-charged agendas in the aftermath. In reality, we’ve failed to recognize that so many of you are drowning under the weight of bureaucracy, from classrooms filled beyond capacity with increasingly difficult behaviors, lack of support, the fear of violence in our schools, and so much more. Even if you have the best of teacher besties, it can feel like you’re an island in a sea of constantly churning waters.
All of that is to say, we see you, Teachers. We see the work that you are doing, the care you are bringing to your classrooms, the bathroom breaks you’ve missed, the personal dollars that you are putting into your classrooms, the prep time you’ve given up, the hours you’ve put into creating and implementing your lesson plans…the exhaustion that often settles in as the school year marches onward. You are doing the invaluable work of nurturing – not just these young minds, but the whole humans who will one day launch out into the world. (Which, I know, is apparently part of the problem, but do we want these kids to one day be solid, employable, contributing members of society capable of communicating positively? Yes. Yes, we do. Thank you for teaching to the whole of your students.)
You are doing everything in your power to create a safe space for these children whose lives you are making a difference in. You are more than you are ever given credit for, really you are. And, yes, we are rolling our eyes along with you every time someone says, “Must be nice to have those summers off.” We see the continuing education you’re consuming to grow both your classroom and those of your fellow teachers. We see that second job you work in order to make ends meet because teachers are so grossly underpaid. We see you checking on that student who desperately needs to be seen and heard. We see both your struggles and your triumphs, and we so appreciate you.
Teachers, you are the difference-makers. You are equipping our young people with knowledge and the tools to go forth and be employable adult humans. You are walking hand-in-hand with parents and guardians as a key member of the village that it takes to raise a child. We know it’s not easy and that no one is perfect. This is us wishing you a school year filled with growth, grace, and learning. May your students be sparkling sponges of learning readiness, your administrators offer the support you need, and your students’ parents be the perfect partner in this year’s educational adventures.
A Grateful Community
You’ve got a friend in me: Supporting our teachers the whole year long.
Teacher Appreciation Week comes at the tail end of the year (presumably when teachers need a supportive nudge to see them across the finish line of another school year), but we’re flipping the script to offer some tips for supporting our teachers throughout the whole school year. With teacher burnout at an all-time high and constant reports of teacher shortages, we need to be proactive in caring for the people educating our children.
“Teaching is the profession on which all other professions depend.”Linda Darling-Hammond, founding president of the Learning Policy Institute
Communication is Key
- Attend the Open Houses- Meet your child’s teacher, familiarize your child with their classroom/new school; essentially, prepare to start the school year off on the right foot.
- When meeting your child’s teacher, ask about their preferred method of communication (phone calls in the middle of the day generally can’t be answered, so do they prefer email or a classroom app for keeping each other in the know). For your part, be reachable.
- Address things early- Don’t let things fester and escalate; if you or your child has a concern, reach out early so things can be addressed immediately. (To that end, don’t leapfrog over your child’s teacher; give them a chance to manage the situation first.) Don’t immediately get defensive (this goes for everybody in the conversation); set the tone you wish to receive.
- Don’t minimize when your child’s teacher is the one reaching out. “Well, that doesn’t seem like such a big deal,” says the parent of a child with x behavior. Imagine if 17-23 other students were also engaging in that behavior; no one would be learning.
- Be proactive- Check your child’s backpack for communication (the early years), read and respond to emails/messages from your child’s teacher and school. Ask how you can help, then follow through. (This could look like everything from helping in the classroom to spending extra time reading or working on math facts at home). Your engagement makes a HUGE difference. As your child gets older, just checking in with them (trust but verify) that they’re staying on top of their assignments can go a long way to keeping the train on the track.
The Little Things That Add Up
- Arrive on time- Bringing your child to school on time allows for your child to receive a full day of learning. Tardiness, on the other hand, disrupts learning, not just for your child but the entire classroom. (We’re talking lunch counts, playing catch up on missed information, and in-general, disruption to the flow of the day).
- Supplies Sharing- Can you purchase a few extra supplies for your child’s classroom?
- Know your kid- Especially for littles, be aware of whether or not your kid can tie their shoes, can they open all the things in their lunchbox, how about those tricky straps on their overalls?
- Nobody is perfect…including your child- A thousand percent, you are your child’s first and best advocate, but sometimes our kid is in the wrong. If we can accept that and move forward in a solution-focused way, we’re showing accountability is a priority.
At the end of the day, we’re a team – teachers, kids, parents, administrators - and we share a common goal. We want the kids to learn and grow and have a positive schooling experience (okay, the kids mostly want to socialize, but still). We spend a lot of time blaming the schools when things go sideways, but we must look at the whole picture – that accountability thing – and see where we can do better, on all sides of the equation. Not one of us is perfect, but together, we can be the change we wish to see for our children.