In preparation for Teacher Appreciation Week, it is important for all stakeholders in the realm of education to consider how each of us can step up to the plate and show gratitude for our teachers on the front lines; not just for an honorary week, but all year long. Listed below are just a few ways that each of us, in our own roles, can support educators, and in turn, our children.
Parents, don’t underestimate your influence – you can do so much to shape a positive school climate. We’re all familiar with the cliche, eye-rolling response in reaction to a “What did you do at school today?” line of questioning, but we overlook the comfort and reassurance these questions, however begrudgingly received, offer our students. They like to know you care, even if they don’t always say it. If you’d like to do something more tangible to express your thanks, try donating some simple school supplies to the classrooms at your school. The reality is, teachers are often spending their own money to bridge the gap between the supplies they have and the quantity/quality of supplies they actually need. A little goes a long way in showing you’re willing to take on some of the burden also. In addition to engagement and donations, you can also give thanks by helping to create a safer environment for every student by simply talking to your children about bullying and instilling in them the importance of being kind. Whether they are willing to divulge who is being bullied or not, ask your child to perform one “random act of kindness” towards someone they know has been the recipient of bullying. This is so powerful because your child can feel empowered that even if they can’t stop the bullying, they can let a bullied student know they are liked and appreciated – and that their small actions lead to the creation of a better world.
Whether you’re a veteran student of life or an elementary student, we’ve all had a teacher that changed our world. Don’t be afraid, no matter how much time has passed, to reach out to that teacher, and put your gratitude into words about how they’ve made you a better person. Beyond reflection, you can also show your gratitude by being invested in what it is you’re doing and the bigger purpose of why you’re learning. Be willing to take risks. Be willing to “fail forward”. Be willing to learn. Recognize how much energy goes into teaching and give each day in school your full attention as a way of showing great teachers the respect they deserve. In the end, you will reap the rewards of your efforts and dedication.
Teachers need one another now more than ever. One of the ways administrators can facilitate teachers finding, supporting and inspiring each other is to create a Professional Learning Community. Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, cover a wide spectrum; they can be any group of educators that meets regularly to share expertise and improve their teaching skills by learning from one another. Administrators, take the initiative to create a supportive space where teachers can positively interact, tap in to their creativity, and grow together as educators. For content and organizational inspiration, Twitter is a great place to gain exposure to a variety of PLCs, with attendees ranging from new teachers to innovative thought leaders. One educator I find particularly inspiring in this space is Jennifer Hogan, who offers a voice of compassion and experience to motivate teachers through blogging, reading and reflection. Follow her on Twitter at @Jennifer_Hogan or check out her PLC through her website.
Fight not just for the improvement of our schools, but for allowing teachers the opportunity to be creative in their classrooms. In this way, we are expressing gratitude for their ingenuity and willingness to solve complex problems in new ways. We are embarking on a time of great uncertainty, where we simply do not know what jobs will exist in the future, and teachers need to feel empowered to respond creatively to these challenges and know they are supported in out-of-the-box thinking, while staying true to the duties of laying the foundation for problem solving, computational thinking and 21st century skills like creativity, innovation, communication and collaboration.
Members of the media – we’ve long bemoaned all the doomsday-esque coverage of events that only leave those interested in education feeling more discouraged than ever before, but good things are indeed happening and need more coverage! Start reporting on the amazing things that teachers and districts are doing; tap into the school system networks to find out about those teachers who dare to be different, those who have the courage to invest in the future of our world by staying dedicated to the relentless pursuit of creating a better world through education.
Let’s look at next week – Teacher Appreciation Week – as an opportunity to plant the seeds of collaboration and begin working together to support our educators. Together, let’s help them to create the most empowering learning environment possible. Let’s all pull together and do our best to support them!