Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Teacher Appreciation All Year Long

Teacher Appreciation Week 2017

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.

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Teaching Has Taught Me… Nothing

It doesn’t seem possible that my time in the classroom is over.Top Community Blogger Badge

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.

teaching has taught me nothing

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Five Days of Teacher Love: Teachers Make a Difference!

Teacher Appreciation Week 2017

“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.

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#TeacherLove: Love For Detroit


When I first started teaching high school, my elder colleagues pulled me aside often — there was so much to mentor me about. I was an eager student. Until the day they told me, “Erika, if you reach just one student, be proud and consider your teaching a success.” One? I had 160 and I aspired to be powerful and effective for each and every one.

And then I learned. It’s really, really hard to be a good teacher. But still, I aspired.

Last week while meeting at NASA about STEM teachers, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting several astronauts. The story goes that they agreed to join us at dinner once they knew we were teachers. I like to imagine that as we said to ourselves, “Wow, real live astronauts?” they were saying, “Wow, real live teachers!”

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#TeacherLove: The Future’s So Bright, Better Get Your Shades


Stories Have Power

Even a casual read of the national narrative on public education today reveals a very clear theme. The narrative is largely negative. It is often politicized. Salaries are negligible and, in some cases, respect for educators is even worse. It’s no wonder headlines pose questions such as, “Where Have All The Teachers Gone?” and “Is This The Canary In The Coal Mine?”

A great number of teachers are leaving the profession within their first five years. Ever-expanding expectations packaged as professional responsibilities — where there is little respect for teacher professionalism — have become so complex and demanding that increasing numbers of master teachers are burning out and checking out, well before they’re due for retirement. Our students are paying attention to how their teachers are treated. They’re paying attention to the conversation and the steadily declining enrollment in teacher preparatory programs is a clear indication that this is a conversation of which they want no part. These trends are reaching crisis points across the nation in the form of both teacher shortages and substitute shortages.

You might be thinking, “Why all the gloom and doom during Teacher Appreciation Week?” I hear you. But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about why I see a glimmer of hope for a bright and brilliant future… in spite of all of this noise.

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#TeacherLove: The Person Who Changed My Life


Jeff Whitt and Katie Egner in JamestownAs I’ve been watching CNN over the past month, I’ve been very interested in their feature “The Person Who Changed My Life.” It’s a retrospective series where studio personalities talk about people that have had a profound impact on their lives. Some of us were lucky to have come from families that were both loving and supportive. However, there are those of us that were twice blessed in that we also had our lives influenced by another individual that caused us to go down a totally different path then we would have ever imagined.

I was 18 years old and had just completed my first year of studies at Wright State University. I came from a fairly modest upbringing and was the first person on either side of my family to attend college. As such, I was bound and determined that I was going to graduate with a degree in political science and then proceed immediately to law school. My primary objective was to make enough money that I never had to worry about paying a bill at the end of the month.

To help achieve these goals, I was working at a court reporting firm to not only earn money for tuition, but to also build a supportive network. I had it all figured out. At least, I thought so…

My cousin was in eighth grade and was playing middle school football. He seemed to be having fun and I found myself missing being part of a team. That’s when I called the football coach and offered to volunteer my services for the season. He was receptive, and so began my friendship with Jeff Whitt.

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#TeacherLove: Tag a Teacher for Teacher Appreciation Week


I have always admired Eleanor Roosevelt.

Eleanor was a woman of firsts. She was a civically involved, politically engaged, and unconventional first lady. She was a remarkable leader because she was open minded, courageous, and confident. She was a model of “be the change” for the world because she was not afraid to cause a ruckus.

Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

Eleanor lived a life of empathy as well. She believed that every individual was worthy of dignity and decency, and that ordinary people are capable of the most extraordinary things — even when acting was difficult or frightening. She was an advocate for women’s rights, racial equality, labor unions, and, of course, education.

Many of the qualities that made Eleanor Roosevelt so special are qualities that I see so clearly in some of the most courageous, brilliant, and selfless educators I know. One day, even one week, is simply not enough to honor and thank our teachers for the important work they do every day with their heart — with their students at the center.

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#TeacherLove: Love Looks Like Time, Tenderness, and “Toddler Fridays”


I met her in 2000 as I was bringing my oldest daughter, then three years DeeDee Farmer old, for her pre-kindergarten screening. She was amazing. She had a way of connecting with young children that was completely non threatening and on their level; yet they understood that she was in charge. My daughter used to say, in her three-year-old voice, “She is not a lady; she is a little girl.” She insists that you call her DeeDee, but her name is Dr. Deneita Jo Farmer.

DeeDee is the coordinator of the Pre-Kindergarten Partnership Program for Oak Park School District 97, and has been for many years. The program she leads is designed for students who are at-risk, and my daughter qualified due to a speech delay that she has long since overcome. DeeDee assured me that I was doing all the right things and that my daughter wouldn’t suffer any ill effects as a result of her diminished hearing during her early years.

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