It’s tough going out there for teachers nowadays and dedicating the first week in May to teacher appreciation isn’t going to make much difference if folks don’t start taking a stand and publicly defend their educators—thanking them, too.
Bad press follows teachers almost daily, even during this special, set-aside week when President Obama pauses in his quest for reform and celebrates National Teacher of the Year Michelle Shearer at a White House ceremony today.
Truth is, this week’s favorable spotlight will fade, quickly replaced with more negatives and criticism. These days, test scores reign, as do merit pay, charter schools, and vouchers. According to reformers—mostly politicians and corporate bigwigs—all-too-many of America’s teachers are lazy and ineffective, thus causing our students’ lackluster performance.
As educator and journalist Walt Gardner put it, “The beatings will continue until teacher morale improves. Teachers are facing unrivaled criticism from all sides. The education reform movement has targeted them as culprits of failing schools. The culture of disrespect, little support, and unrelenting demands takes a toll on teachers—and our students.”
Said one Montgomery County educator, “As a special education teacher who truly tries to individualize instruction for each child in my classroom, I work almost non-stop. I just got home from school, after having started work at 7 a.m. (an hour and 25 minutes before teachers’ official Friday start time in my district) and am settling down to another evening of working until midnight . . . I don’t think the general public realizes the countless hours beyond the school day that go into teaching.”
Is it any wonder, then, that 46% of teachers quit before their fifth year? Nor is it so surprising that the Commission on Teacher Credentialing reports that the number of credentials issued annually has fallen 29 percent over the past five years, from 28,039 in 2004-05 to 20,032 in 2009-10.
The time has come, then, to take a stand and put some teeth into the notion of appreciating teachers by backing their efforts and making school work your family’s top priority. Then . . .
· Treat teachers respectfully and professionally.
· Monitor your child’s homework and test prep, seeing that it’s done accurately and completely every day.
· Don’t do your child’s homework/projects or write his/her essays; you’re not the one being graded.
· Show up on Parent Nights.
· Be prompt for parent-teacher conferences and come prepared to ask questions and take notes.
· Return teachers’ phone calls and emails promptly; they wouldn’t try to contact you if it weren’t important.
· Acknowledge when your child is in the wrong, refusing to defend the indefensible and abiding by whatever consequences are meted out.
· Take vacations only when school is not in session and schedule doctor/dentist appointments during after-school hours.
· Volunteer your time and talents.
At the same time, advocate on behalf of teachers with lawmakers deciding the fate of our public schools.
And give thanks, too. As educator Meryl R. explains, “When a parent calls or writes to say, ‘Thank you for all that you do for my child,’ that’s when I know I’ve had a great day, week, or year.” See that your child puts such a note in the hand of a favored teacher or two, as well–both current and former.
Prefer a smart phone slant on giving thanks over pen and paper? If so, there’s now an app for that. Instead of sending thank you cards, the iGiftThanks app allows you to say thank you on Facebook, Twitter or through email. Just type in a short note, maybe add a photo, and you’re done.
Then it’s kudos all around.