Teacher Appreciation Week has once again come and gone. Lauding and applauding for five days, from those who have been impacted by an educator, directly or indirectly. Whether it be the third grade teacher that taught cursive writing or the high school teacher that inspired a love of writing or civics, the second week of May is the perfect time to show that teachers matter and that their role in your life — or your child’s life — has a special place in your heart.
As an educator, I always look forward to Teacher Appreciation Week. It falls during state testing, providing a brief respite from the high-stakes atmosphere that not a single teacher, student, or family relishes. The reinforcement of a hug, flowers, handwritten notes, or handmade crafts brighten my day. A small token of appreciation from the PTA or the staff luncheon provided by the administrative team is a welcome break from the monotony of the daily grind.
Teacher Appreciation Amidst a Political Maelstrom
This year, however, Teacher Appreciation Week has lost some of its luster. While the aforementioned gifts and signs of appreciation still came, teachers across Kentucky are suffering from repeated personal attacks by Governor Matt Bevin. They’re underappreciated and often deceived by the Republican leadership in Frankfort.
In a heated battle that’s served as a call to action for the over 40,000 educators across the Commonwealth, pensions have been threatened, state education programs have seen their budgets slashed, and districts are facing the real possibility that they will not have the funds necessary to stay in operation.
Teacher appreciation is something I think about a lot. When I was in the classroom full time, I so appreciated the notes from children and families — especially when they arrived at times other than Teacher Appreciation Week. However, it’s really awesome to be recognized as a group with your colleagues, and for that reason I’m thankful for the special things that happen each year at the beginning of May.
As a #NGSS teacher, learner, and coach, I have so much for which I’m thankful. I write this post to give a shout out to those who have been instrumental in helping me to become a much better #NGSS advocate and guru. Through my own learning, I became a better listener and collaborator, and now I can pay it forward by working with other teachers. There’s no educator who has had a greater impact on my #NGSS journey and my work than Dr. Stephen Pruitt.
Dr. Stephen Pruitt
Stephen Pruitt, who I like to call the “Father of NGSS,” was my first NGSS teacher. There are so many things I’ve learned from Stephen that they would be impossible to enumerate in full.
- Most notably, he taught me how important it is to believe in myself as a science educator.
- Stephen helped me to understand the importance of the three dimensions of NGSS, and how weaving those strands into meaningful science teaching and learning makes a strong and beautiful rope. While each of the dimensions is important as part of the foundation of learning, sense-making doesn’t truly happen until each of the dimensions are interwoven.
- Stephen also taught me how to “eliminate black boxes” as an adult learner, so I could use that learning in my work with teachers and children.
These are just three examples of the ways that Dr. Stephen Pruitt has impacted me and my work as an educator. I appreciate him tremendously and I find myself wondering, if Stephen had such a profound impact on my work, what impact has he had on educators across the country? I decided to ask a few colleagues for their thoughts in an effort to find out.
“What if you chose to teach, because you could be anything.”
~ Talia Milgrom-Elcott, 100kin10 2018 Summit
Remember when you wanted to be an ER surgeon who performed on Broadway during the weekends? No? Well, what about that summer you wanted to be a pink flamingo? Still no? Ok, well, do you remember that time when you chose to be a teacher?
Looking back, none of these career choices would have been easy (especially that flamingo gig); but teaching is hard — really hard. We may have chosen this job, but at this time of year, with all the challenges of the day, why do we continue to do this? Why do we continue to push students to become their best selves, towards what we believe they are capable of — shooting for the moon and beyond — even when they don’t understand why?
In 1949, when I was twenty-one years old, I took a creative writing course at the New School in Manhattan, taught by Professor Don M. Wolfe. He had been my freshman English teacher at New York University, where I graduated in 1947, just two months shy of my twentieth birthday.
Dr. Wolfe assigned compositions and encouraged us to stretch the language to create imaginative imagery and use muscular words to tell our stories and create our plots. He was extremely diligent in his reading of our material. When I would receive one of my compositions back, he wrote his criticisms in red ink scrawls and you felt dead certain that he had read every word. It was through those red scrawls that I interpreted his message.
You can write, son. Keep at it.
Many students can cite similar experiences: the mentor, the inspiration, the great teacher who took the student under her or his wing and made the crucial difference, who pointed the way to a fulfilling and prosperous career.
In that fateful freshman year, largely due to Dr. Wolfe’s inspiration (of which he was surely unaware), I decided to be a writer of fiction. I changed my major to English Literature, gloried in the study of the extraordinary western canon of authors, and have since then pursued a lifetime of obsessive composition of novels, short stories, essays, and poems. I’ve been through every imaginable phase of rejection, insult, deprecation, praise, acceptance, and a moment or two of lionization.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
We’re kicking off our week of Tchers’ favorite things by gifting you with time. Well, sort of! Since we can’t literally give you more time in your day, or give you a longer prep period (though we wish we could!), we hope to cut back on your planning time by showing you a few easy strategies you can try right away.
Demonstrated by some of our long-time favorites, like Sarah Brown Wessling, to brand-new teachers like Marquis Colquitt, these four new videos will give you fresh tools for your teacher toolkit.
Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11, 2018
The school year may be winding down, but spring is definitely one of the most stressful times of the year for teachers. So what better time to show our love and admiration for the special and amazing teachers in our lives? It’s also the perfect time to slow down and take care of ourselves as educators. This Teacher Appreciation Week, we’ve got you covered with gift ideas and self-care advice for educators like you.
Here at Tch, our goal is to appreciate teachers all day, every day. This Teacher Appreciation Week, we want to give you what you really need: more time and more energy, plus opportunities to relax, splurge, and learn. Sounds good, right?!
Here’s what we have in store for you this Teacher Appreciation Week!
Five years ago, I wrote my first blog for Teaching Channel. I’d just had my first child and was compelled to write a letter to her future teachers. Now she’s had two miraculous preschool teachers and I’m continuously thankful for the love and care they’ve given my daughter. But, even more, I’m heartened by the knowledge there are so many amazing teachers out in the world, performing miracles and loving countless children day after day.
Though you are indeed miracle workers, it’s easy to feel unappreciated. Your days are filled with endless requests from students, administrators, and parents. You’re tasked with doing what often feels impossible — getting large groups of diverse students to understand abstract and complex ideas, creating a positive society in your classroom — even when the outside world feels chaotic, and doing this all with a smile on your face. You likely come home every day exhausted, not quite sure how you held one billion different details in your brain while still making sure that students were respectful to each other and making progress towards mastering grade level content.
It doesn’t seem possible that my time in the classroom is over.
At the start of this school year, I accepted a position as a principal, after spending the last 15 years in the classroom. At some points, those years seemed to zoom by, but there were moments where time seemed to stand still, the daily struggles nearly overwhelming. Thankfully, the fulfilling days far outweighed the tough times.
While I’m enjoying the challenges and rewards afforded by my career shift, I have times where I’m nostalgic for my days in the classroom. As much as I enjoyed being a teacher, I also revel in discovery, and I expect to learn from each of my jobs. In reflecting on my teaching career, I realized that teaching has taught me… nothing.
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a
difference in our lives.”
— John F. Kennedy
It’s The Little Things
A thank-you note or a kind word — even a simple smile goes a long way for a teacher. We often underestimate the influence of the little things or think what we have to offer is so insignificant — what’s the point?
But I know teachers who cherish notes from students scribbled on scrap paper and well up with tears when one of their “kids” says thanks. It’s just as powerful when this kind of everyday recognition comes from parents, colleagues, or administrators.