I know that it’s Teacher Appreciation Week because there’s free food at school. Last week, in preparation for the big event, we were feted with, as one colleague put it, mayonnaise-five-ways. Okay, there was pulled pork to go with the mayonnaise salads, but still it was a July 4th meal two months early. We’re professionals and sadly/gladly, we were pleased not to eat our Lean Cuisines and leftovers one day during our lunch half-hour. This week, so far we have had a lunchtime barbeque, donuts, cake on a stick, a Costco cookie, and coffee. (I must admit, coffee brought to me on a cart was quite the treat.) Not that I don’t mind all the food-based treats, but I wonder if there is another way to show appreciation for teachers besides with food?
Here are some ideas.
- Each and every student will say at least one nice thing to each of his/her teachers. A few suggestions popped into my head. “That was an interesting lesson, thank you.” “Now I get it, thank you.” “I’m sorry that I didn’t do a good job on the assignment, but I have redone it, without expecting a higher grade but just to show you what I am capable of and what you have taught me that I am capable of. Thank you” “You look lovely today, as always.” “You are the best teacher” (this can be said, without any irony or contradiction, to every teacher).
- Each and every parent, no teamwork here, must write a Thank You note to his or her children’s teachers—for every single teacher of every single child. To do this each parent must know the name of his/her child’s teachers, must know the subject the teacher teaches, and must know some specifics that can be mentioned in the note. This information could be gleaned from your child. Surely, writing the note is something all parents know how to do since they have told their children, on various occasions, to write Thank You notes.
- All parents and students will refrain from sending any emails that are thinly-disguised or not even vaguely-disguised rants at a teacher, and if any are sent, they will certainly not be CC-ed to assistant principals, principals, or superintendents. Honestly, you can assume that it is not the teacher’s fault that your child is failing, and it is not the teacher’s fault that your child is not doing his/her work and it is not the teacher’s fault that your child plagiarized a paper. Generally when a child is not doing his or her work, it's because things are not quite right at home--so parents, look to yourselves before you start blaming teachers.
- For the entire week, parents would need to help their children with their homework. Not to do it for them, but to sit there and explain c a l m l y what he didn’t get at school. And if, for whatever reason, he still doesn’t understand what you’re explaining ever-so-thoroughly and effectively, figure out another way of getting the idea across so that he can feel good about himself and his learning. For each of the week’s sessions you will never voice your frustration, nor will you express your frustration by leaving the room (other than to go to the bathroom), until the learning is done. At absolutely no point will you use the S-word (as in stupid) or the L-word (as in lazy).
- “If you can read, thank a teacher.” I’ve seen that bumper sticker—and I think it holds true. Every person in this country should acknowledge, in some way (see above and below) the positive impact that teacher’s have had on his/her life. (Yes, there are teachers who are not good, as there are parents who are not good, but who takes away a Mother’s Day Card from a mother or a Father’s Day card from a father? Positive thinking, we are positive-thinking.)
- For one week let us teachers teach without the dual requirement to entertain the masses. This is not stand-up comedy and this is not a sitcom. (Wait, it probably is a sitcom. Every single classroom could easily be the basis for a sitcom.) Grammar is not fun. Writing essays is not the most enjoyable of activities. SO WHAT! It needs to be done. There are skills that need to be mastered, and not just for tests that dumb-down, but for life that invites possibilities. Do it! Do your work. Yes, it’s called work—school work and home work. But if kids would try for just a moment to focus on the learning—on what the teacher has to teach—and not on the fact that they would rather be connected to some gadget, learning may occur.
- Pay a one-day babysitting fee for your child. Let’s assume a babysitter these days makes $11 an hour and a school day is 7.5 hours, so $82.50 would be owed for each student to be paid to a teachers’ fund at your child’s school. This money could then be used at the teachers’ discretion; of course, a professional community would be established to decide how to use the funds. Luxuries such as coffee machines, microwaves, refrigerators for teacher workrooms, or even “teacher chairs” that don’t look like they trickled down from the Principal’s Conference Room two principals ago could be considered.
- And one thing that did happen this week that I truly appreciated: students wrote nice thank you comments on paper apples and gave them out to teachers. Too bad that most had exactly the same comments so there was a hint of insincerity, and that mine had a misused contraction. But here, at least, there were no calories involved and there seemed to be an honest note of appreciation. THANK YOU STUDENTS!