“Happy week of teachers Miss H!”
I turned and smiled and thanked the sweet girl before walking her down the hallway to make sure she made it back to class. She’s lived in the States for less than a year, and last week she took a 3 hour standardized math test and a 3 hour standardized science test, both painstakingly read aloud to her but still vastly above her comprehension level (and endurance).
I’m her teacher, but I didn’t get to read it to her, because I might have cheated.
This week we’re making bird feeders and mother’s day cards and practicing using the “ing” ending on verbs, and I’m remembering that I love my job.
There’s a lot of talk about the standardized testing industry and the common core standards and the direction education is going as a whole, and the best advice I can give on all of that is: talk to someone who has a vested interest and some significant knowledge before forming opinions.
(Examples of such people would be your child’s teacher or principal, other teachers in your district, your child him or herself, and information sent home from the school. Politicians, teachers unions, and lobbyists are never the place to find accurate information about what is happening at your school and what is best for your child.)
So I’m not going to try to talk about what’s happening at your school or with your child. I’m also not going to talk about what’s happening at my school or what’s best for my students, because that’s not a conversation that you need to hear.
I want to talk about how to appreciate teachers well.
It’s teacher appreciation week, and everyone has teachers in their lives they need to say thanks to. Here are a few simple and specific ways to do just that:
- Pray for the teachers in your life.
I spend more time with my students than with any other humans on the planet, and for most of my students, the reverse is true as well. I spend more waking hours in the average day with my students than their parents do, and in some households, I spend more time with these children in the whole year than the parents do. I get to be therapist and nurse and rabbi and handyman and everything in between and it is more than I can do. I need prayer for energy, for patience, for grace and mercy and love for the ones who need an extra measure of that. I need prayer for wisdom, for perseverance, for fight for the kids who need it and gentleness for the ones who don’t. I need prayers as I interact with parents and social workers and administrators and everyone else trying to do what’s best for these tiny people.
I need prayer because these little ones need so very much and I am not big enough.
- Ask how you can help.
This may feel awkward for you, but most of the teachers in your life need help in some really practical ways. They might need help with the mountain of grading that will never get smaller or in painting the backdrop for the school musical next week. They might need you to come in and talk to their fourth grade class for career day or do the thankless job of proctoring one of those standardized tests. One time this year, a generous friend bought some tiny clothes for a student I had who was too small for the ones we had at school and kept needing changes, and it was the sweetest and most practical thing anyone had ever given me for my class. We need pencils and glue sticks and stickers and empty toilet paper rolls, and you have some of those things. Even if we don’t need help, the offer will mean a lot.
- Don’t get political.
Trust me, we intimately know about the drama with the standardized testing and what people are predicting about the new standards for next year. We’re aware of legislation about school vouchers and charter schools and whether or not pizza counts as a vegetable. We know we’re underpaid and overworked and that our salary is public record so you’re fully aware of just how true that is. Sometimes, we have strong opinions about those things but it’s not appropriate for us to share them with you (especially if you’re a parent of a child in our class). Sometimes it really doesn’t affect our day to day, and too much of our career is public knowledge for us to care about all of that. I love when my friends and family are interested in what’s happening with education, and by all means advocate for teachers and students and keep up with the news. But keeping up with the news is different than beginning polarizing conversations with highly partisan language. Ask questions before assuming what we think about something, and listen to what we have to say before you disagree.
Better yet, if you really want to talk about our work, ask us about what we love about our students. It’ll make you feel better about the world and it will remind us just how much we love our students and our jobs.
- Say thank you.
Sure, teachers love Target gift cards as much as the next middle aged white woman, but the thank you means just as much if not more. Teaching is a meaningful, hilarious, joyful, busy, and fast-paced job, but it is often thankless. Having a student turn around and say, “Happy week of the teacher!” to me this morning was an unusual and wonderful start to the day. No teacher has ever gotten into this for the money or the glory or the hours or even for the summers, but when you’re in it for the love of the kids and you get a group that makes you cry more often than it makes you laugh, a little thank you goes a long way.
Most of my favorite people are teachers, and this little post is my small way of saying thank you to them.
Thank you for finding things to love in every student, for taking your weekends and afternoons to tutor and grade and plan and for spending your tiny salary on a new backpack for the kid in your class who lost theirs on the bus three weeks ago. Thank you for calling parents when you know they’re going to yell, for counseling referrals and noticing when a kid needs a new eyeglass prescription. Thank you for attending a thousand meetings and eating your lunch faster than most people can wash their hands.
As a teacher, I am encouraged every day by your creativity and fresh perspective, and I need you to talk me down off the ledge. Thank you.
As a student who can read and write and function as an adult in society, I cannot thank my teachers enough. Everything I do I can do because someone taught me.
Thank the teachers in your life this week and every week. You are who you are because of them.
Photo by Gunjan Karun, via flickr.