I’m sure hordes of thoughtful students and parents have bestowed good-tasting treats upon teachers during this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week, May 4–8.
It comes right before graduation season every year, so as we shift into a mode of honoring this year’s high school graduates, we pause for a moment to give a shout-out to teachers.
But while a shout-out may be a great symbolic gesture and doughnuts and bagels in the teachers’ lounge may be sweet, what is it that could really make teachers feel appreciated? What would they like to see in their schools and classrooms?
A few years ago, we asked the finalists for Illinois Teacher of the Year that exact question. Here are some of the answers they gave:
I would like to see more teachers teach with a high energy level. Students need to know that their teacher is passionate about their own profession and the success of each of their students. I would love to look into classrooms and see teachers with high energy teaching with top notch resources.
What I would like to see more of in classrooms is more hands-on learning. While there are different styles of learning, students need to be able to apply knowledge to learn the material.
I have always worked very hard to communicate with parents and make them feel that they are a part of the learning experience. It has served me well over the years to make the effort to include my classroom parents as a part of the educational process. I have been very blessed over the years to work with many caring parents that want the best for their children. I treat the children that I work with as my own, knowing that every parent I work with hopes that I care about their child as deeply as they do.
I would like to see better funding for professional development opportunities and technology in the classroom.
However, great teachers are resourceful. They are constantly changing and seeking new ways to improve. These are teachers that are attending workshops and conferences when offered, taking classes, and doing a lot of self-reflection. They see constructive criticism as an opportunity to grow, and they are staying current with information in their subject matter and with the technology provided to meet the needs of all students.
Great teachers work well with others, and they collaborate with their peers on a regular basis. They work hard to create a seamless transition from one subject level to another, and they work with people outside their departments to improve the overall culture of their schools.
These teachers take the time to make their students feel valued, and they are always finding new ways to challenge their students while providing students the support they need to be successful. They believe in each and every individual and have high expectations for all of them. Furthermore, they provide parents with the ability to become involved in their child’s education through email, webpages, phone calls, and letters home.
It’s a balance. It’s an art. Great teachers are passionate about their role in education and committed to the students in their schools. These are the types of teachers that our students need and deserve and one that I aspire to be like.
I would like to see more teachers in classrooms taking the time to build relationships with their students, their families, and the communities in which the students live. Building a relationship is key to students’ success.
I think that students will thrive knowing that you care about them inside the classroom as well as outside the classroom. Listening to them about what is going on in their lives inside of school and outside of school will show them that you care. Going to your students’ extracurricular events and participating in community activities will also help build relationships.
I’d see every classroom outfitted with all the supplies, materials, and technology each teacher deemed necessary. Every wish list might not be covered, but at least the absolutely necessary items would be there.
I’d see students who receive academic and emotional support from their parents, and who come to school feeling nurtured and cared for.
I’d see fewer students in each class, giving more students an opportunity for one-on-one time with the teacher if necessary and giving teachers a more manageable work load.
I’d see teachers who are paid commensurately with what professionals in that community make, given the same educational requirements and years of service.
I’d see teachers who love their jobs and still feel passionate about their career choice and not overburdened and overwhelmed with all the stress and responsibility. I am fortunate I do see much of this in my own classroom and in my school.
Annice Brave, the 2011 Illinois Teacher of the Year
I would like to see teachers who
- Have infinite patience for the children who need to have patience consistently modeled for them to examine
- Have boundless love for students who will test to see how long love lasts and when anger will erupt
- Have bottomless checkbooks to provide adequate nutrition, clothing, and the little extras for kids to help them fit in with their peers
- Have a never-ending supply of “just the right thing” to say when a child is wounded and feels that no one cares
- Have classrooms that are true “Palaces of Knowledge” where every student has the latest technology and supplies to get a first-class education
- Have classes filled with diverse students who not only learn together but learn from each other’s experiences
- Live in a world where people show love for children by adequately funding needed programs to provide a great upbringing for all children
- Have the respect of their communities for the knowledge, love, and respect they bring to their students
Josh Stumpenhorst, the 2012 Illinois Teacher of the Year, from his own blog
While I love Teacher Appreciation Week, I wonder if we as parents and community members can be doing more. This is not to say teachers are incapable of doing things themselves but they/we need help. Nor are they ungrateful for the gifts and nice comments and notes. Teachers work tirelessly to provide the best possible education for our students but it takes a village. We all need help with moving the needle of change in education to ensure our schools are the best possible learning environments they can be.
To bring these wanted (and needed) items to teachers …
Try to communicate with teachers in constructive dialog about things they care about. Once that’s accomplished, you’ll find they care about things that are important to you as well.
For example, standardized testing is getting a lot of play this year, with opt-out movements alive and kicking in several states and legislatures in other states looking at ways to make standardized testing a more positive thing.
If that turns out to be impossible, leaders at least hope to reduce the unreasonable amount of standardized testing kids deal with, especially since all the testing doesn’t appear to be improving the education we provide for students and may, in fact, be getting in the way of good teaching.
Here’s a short video segment from the HBO series “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” about standardized testing. He explains not only how important standardized testing is to schools and school funding but also why so many people are up in arms about it.
Understanding what Mr Oliver explains will be a good first step toward understanding today’s school climate of teacher accountability—or rather, pseudo-accountability.
If you feel like doing something about it, write your US representative or senator or a delegate in your state’s legislature.
While you’re at it, convey the importance of some of the other things teachers say they want.
Or, if you would rather put your money where your mouth is, try contributing to a classroom-led project on Donors Choose, one that will actually have an impact on teachers’ and students’ lives today. Many of the projects have received no funding to date and need hundreds of dollars to complete.
One of my favorites, to which I donated $50, is Mrs Dzieweczynski’s books project, which endeavors to engage first-grade English language learners in science at Andersen United School in Minneapolis, Minn.
“I am requesting easy non-fiction texts in Spanish for our classroom library. The books I chose for this project have rich informational text and engaging photos that will lend themselves naturally to deep thinking,” she writes.