Real Teacher Appreciation: Putting It to the Test
Another Teacher Appreciation Week has come and gone. The Instagram and “thank-a-teacher” posts are buried under selfies on Facebook walls; the shining apples that traveled in little hands from parents’ fruit bowls to teachers’ desks have softened; and spring bouquets shed petals on piles of graded papers as we check “teacher appreciation” off our 2014 to-do lists.
But the real test of our appreciation is measured not by how we treat our teachers one week out of the school year, but how we support them all of the other weeks.
If those of us collectively working in and around schools and those either influencing or making decisions that will affect educators are really serious about appreciating teachers — particularly those serving in classrooms, schools, and communities where the need for excellent, dedicated teachers is greatest yet least often met — we will work within our respective roles to:
Appreciate teachers — and by extension, their students — enough to assign them appropriately by content area and expertise, ensuring that no biology teacher ends up in an English classroom, and no new teacher still learning his craft is dropped in the classroom filled with second-time ninth-graders.
Appreciate teachers enough to value their time and their intelligence by providing meaningful, relevant, quality professional development that helps them take their instruction to the next level.
Appreciate teachers enough to get Common Core implementation right, ensuring that teachers have the training, instructional models, and materials they need to deliver the standards in the classroom.
Appreciate teachers enough as professionals to ensure common planning time in schools and opportunities to observe and collaborate with colleagues.
Appreciate teachers enough to support their development and ambitions, providing master teachers paths for professional growth and instructional leadership and providing other teachers — particularly those new to the profession — opportunities to learn from them.
Appreciate teachers enough to ensure that preparation programs — both traditional and alternative — provide prospective teachers with the skills, practical knowledge, and clinical opportunities they need to be successful in the classroom.
And appreciate teachers enough to recognize their job as one of the toughest jobs there is, and not one made for everybody.
Until the masses of us relying on educators to teach all children well summon the collective will — in our schools, our preparation programs, in our districts, and in our state and federal houses — to back up our well-meaning platitudes with real practices and policies that support teachers and elevate the profession and its practitioners, Teacher Appreciation Week will continue to come and go in a flurry of flower petals, Facebook posts, and missed opportunities to put our appreciation to the test.