The cookies have been put away. The flowers beginning to wilt. The cards remain on our whiteboards, but life has moved on. No more lunches. No more notes. No more half-price pizza or buy one get one free burritos. Teacher appreciation week is over and the world keeps on spinning.
And while I appreciate the sentiment. While I appreciate the notes. The cards. The food, I cannot help but thank that it is too easy to thank a teacher this way, rather than do it properly. That the whole notion of teacher appreciation is just one more example of how the teaching profession is given little value, in certain circles, because if it were, we wouldn’t need to be thanked like this.
What if instead of a note, people voted for politicians who believed in funding public schools? For politicians who believe that better teaching programs are the answer, not equipping people with no teaching degrees a teaching license? For school boards who support the courageous work teachers do in their classrooms as they try to teach empathy, kindness, acceptance, and understanding?
What if instead of flowers, we were all given livable wages and healthcare that was affordable? I work for a district that has kept our wages intact despite the push of our politicians, who have made it their mission to not only attract new teachers but retain the old. What if every teacher felt that respect? What if every teacher could actually pursue their dream of making a difference for the future of this nation, without having to work two jobs?
What if instead of lunch, we were all given resources? Student service personnel so that every child could get the support they need? Interventionist so that all kids can achieve? Classroom libraries in every room? Technology devices to keep up with the demands of an ever-changing world? Textbooks, if needed, that accurately portray the world we live rather than continue to push misogynistic, racist, and other dismantling views?
What if instead of discounts, we were all given support? Support from our administrators to show off our family, even when it falls outside of what some in society has deemed “the norm?” Support from our school board when we share books that start much-needed conversations? Support for when we try new things? SUpport for when we support our students who need it so desperately? Support for when we hang on to common sense instruction? Support for when we question the computer programs that are placed in our schools instead of teachers? Support from our families as we try to create opportunities that do not push an agenda, but instead push understanding, critical thinking, and actual debate.
To be a teacher is a calling for most. To be a great teacher is a job that will tear your heart out, fill it up and place it back in a new shape. While I will hang on to the notes and cards my students gave me this week until I get old and can no longer teach, I wish we could see as a society how there is so much more to be done. How teachers should feel valued all of the time. How we need to protect the work they do. The meager resources they get. The little respect at times individual teachers face. Not just when the calendar tells us so.