Teacher Appreciation Week (from 5-14-14)

It’s teacher appreciation week. Some days the idea of a “teacher appreciation” seems like a sad, ironic joke.

It is easy to forget you are appreciated when politicians and millionaires vilify you and your profession.

It is easy to forget you are appreciated when your very best, most creative efforts to reach children are seen as less effective than the scripted program or curriculum map created by a committee or corporation somewhere.

It is easy to forget you are appreciated when the profession you went into to inspire students by igniting their curiosity, by encouraging their love of learning, by helping them discover their talents and their potential to make the world a better place, by passing on not only knowledge and skills but wisdom… when all of that is devalued so that you can become a test-score generator.

It is easy to forget you are appreciated when your students no longer seem interested in anything you have to offer as a teacher, don’t seem to value education, and in fact view teachers as the enemy. Especially when some parents seem to view you as the enemy as well.

It is easy to forget that you are appreciated.

But remember, you are appreciated.

There are students and parents who still see teachers as allies instead  of enemies.

There are still students who love learning and do so with enthusiasm.

There are still people who realize that the real magic in teaching lies not in the teacher’s ability to make students answer multiple choice questions accurately, but in the teacher’s ability to raise questions worth asking and get students to ask their own questions.

There are still people who view teaching as a high calling, not temp work that can be done by anyone with five weeks of training.

There are still people who appreciate creative teaching and actually want teachers to be thinkers.

Those people appreciate us. It is to those people I address this message.

If you appreciate teachers and great teaching, tell a teacher you appreciate them.

But appreciating teachers is no longer merely a “feel good” activity. We teachers need more than your appreciation these days. We need you to fight for us, and for great teaching. If nothing is done, all teachers at all levels will be reduced to Quantitative Learning Gains Facilitators. It is already happening. Teachers are leaving the profession in disgust. Others are giving in and going through the motions. Others are still fighting to make teaching more than a numbers game, but we are increasingly under pressure to to step in line and stop thinking.

Your students are becoming numbers, not people. The entire school year is now either test preparation or testing. Love of learning is lost, curiosity is killed. We are not investing in our children, we are robbing them of their childhoods. If you appreciate great teaching and great teachers, speak up on their behalf. To the newspaper. To politicians. To your principal, your superintendent, your school board. To your friends. To anyone who will listen.

Teachers, of course, are called self-serving, self-interested and selfish when they try advocate for the children in their classrooms. Corporations that make millions on standardized testing and test prep programs aren’t selfish. Teachers are.

So tell a teacher you appreciate them this week. But tell someone else how much you appreciate them, too. While you still have great teachers to appreciate.