Thursday, May 5, 2011

How I Celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week

Did you know that this is National Teacher Appreciation Week? Don’t feel bad if the answer is no. I’m a teacher, and it wasn’t even on my radar. I still celebrated though. Here’s how:

Monday: In the afternoon there was an e-mail message from my principal, wishing the entire staff a good week, and telling us to celebrate by eating some complimentary pizza before we all work late into the evening for parent/teacher conferences. That was when I first realized it was my week to feel appreciated.

Tuesday: Early in the morning another e-mail in my inbox; this one was sent to the entire district staff from the wellness committee to let us know we’re all getting a free bottle of water on Wednesday. Well, that spurred a huge chain reaction. Some people thought this was a bad gift because it’s not environmentally conscious, others thought it was petty to dismiss any sort of gift. Then there were the people who commended other people for standing up for what they believe in, and finally there were those who sent sarcastic e-mails making fun of the entire issue (something about organic hemp hankies to wipe away the tears spilled by mother earth.) It was all very entertaining, and turned out to be a far better gift than the bottle of water I drank as I wrote this.

Wednesday: I ran into a newly hired teacher in the copy room. I asked her how it was going.
“Oh my God!” she said, with a laugh. “I worked for years in the private sector. I had no idea how hard this would be. Nothing can prepare you for this job.”
I told her to hang in there, and as I walked back to my classroom to prepare for the final hour of the day I was reminded of my early days teaching, and how far I’ve come.

Thursday: My Creative Writing students had their final short story due today. They were to get ten points extra credit if they read it aloud. I also brought bakery cookies to encourage them to read. Still, only a handful read. They’re a particularly shy class. Expecting to have a lot of free time at the end of the hour, I printed up the last chapter of a book I’ve been working on, but haven’t touched since Pauline was born eleven months ago. I read it aloud to them, and asked for their suggestions on how to proceed. I got a lot of really great feedback! Now I’m excited to write the next chapter, and I have them to thank for it.

At lunch my good friend Jarren was sick and needed to leave school to get antibiotics. She worried that she shouldn’t neglect her after school responsibility of keeping score for the Lacrosse team. I encouraged her to take care of her health and not worry about her job. She hung her head in despair, and talked about how she wants to dig in her back yard in hopes of finding abandoned money, because her full-time teaching job, part-time tutoring and score keeping gigs just don’t pay the bills.

Friday: I plan to go to Eli’s school carnival in the evening, and tell his teachers how much we appreciate them.

I didn’t go into teaching expecting constant praise, or huge perks (like pizza on a night when I’m required to work late or a free bottle of water), but I also didn’t anticipate the national climate we are now in. I can’t remember a time when teachers have been more under attack.
But if I left the profession I would miss it. Every day it seems there is at least one moment when a student makes me laugh. Sometimes I see a kid’s face light up with new knowledge, and occasionally one will contribute an insight into a class discussion that is truly brilliant. And a handful of times, I have had students thank me for being their teacher. Those are the moments I will always carry with me.
So if you want to celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week, contact a favorite teacher, and thank them. Believe me, it will mean a lot.

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