The official Teacher Appreciation Week starts tomorrow. If you celebrated it last week—celebrate again. In fact, celebrate every day! Teacher appreciation can’t be captured in one week. Here is my 2015 list and my 2016 list of why we should appreciate teachers. If you think of something I left out let me know.
Chipotle gave teachers free burritos! This was a nice gesture, really. Plus, I looked them up on the Teach for America donor site and I could not find them there. So double thanks, Chipotle! If there were any other corporations who acknowledged Teacher Appreciation Week. Thank you too!
Here are 17 ways teachers could really be appreciated this year! Since they say there is a teacher shortage, maybe tending to this list would help get real teachers back into the classroom.
- Give teachers a fair and timely contract. How many teacher professionals do you know who work without a contract? Philly teachers went on strike May 1, because they have been working without a contract for four years. They haven’t had a pay raise in five years.
- Get the lead out. You can’t expect teachers to do their best, teaching students and having high expectations, without ensuring that children aren’t drinking harmful lead and copper out of the school drinking fountains. Lead lowers test scores and hurts students and their ability to learn. Here’s the EPA report.
- Let teachers teach. Put real teaching into the hands of those who know innovation best, and quit pretending wealthy people who have never been in a classroom understand how children learn.
- End high-stakes testing. Teachers can create or choose their own tests. That means ending Common Core. It doesn’t mean sneaking embedded tests into so-called personalized learning on the computer. Students don’t require nonstop assessment.
- Provide resources to teach. Donors Choose might be nice for unique projects that call for extra funds, but we shouldn’t see requests for basic needs there. Make public education a priority.
- Quit acting like going digital is God. More people realize that money is going to computers in public schools to replace teachers. A Nashville student figured it out and sued. There’s no proof digital is better. Well-prepared teachers are still key for learning to occur. Don’t forget that.
- Don’t waste a teacher’s time. Don’t make teachers sit through ridiculous professional development and business meetings. Funny YouTube humorist and principal Gerry Brooks says “don’t make me sit through a meeting that could have been an email.”
- Fund decent and safe school buildings. Along with building new buildings or renovating old ones, keep facilities clean and safe. Hire caring custodians who are made to feel a part of the school and who look out for teachers. I might add, make sure the bathrooms are clean and have soap and tissue.
- Provide secure pensions. Teachers deserve a fair retirement plan. Last September, Amway President Doug DeVos, brother-in-law of Betsy, announced at the West Michigan Policy Forum that ending public employees’ pension benefits should be the No. 1 public policy priority. No teacher appreciation there.
- Lower class sizes. It’s common sense that once a teacher has too many students their ability to teach well will go down. Teachers are trained professionals, not magicians. Insist that class sizes be manageable. Also, put some thought into how students are placed in those classes.
- Address student mental health. Students who repeatedly display emotional or behavioral disabilities need support. They don’t need to interrupt instruction, or pose a threat to other students, teachers, and staff. Public schools should be on the frontline in determining who requires help, but it takes professionals, planning, and support to address this important issue.
- Support students with special needs. If students with exceptionalities are to be included in the general class, make sure the teacher has the support required to accommodate students.
- Include parents. Teachers need them. Don’t pretend to care about parent voices, but then keep them out of the loop, or write rules as to how they should behave (charter schools). Parents know their child best. They need to feel welcome and free to work with their child’s teachers.
- Create a good student support system. Teachers work best with a team of other professionals. Every school should have counselors, librarians, nurses, and other student support staff.
- Boycott U.S. News and World Report. O.K. I know that most media outlets hate teachers, but this one is the worst in my humble opinion. Not only do they idolize Teach for America, they really think Michelle Rhee fixed D.C. schools! And their uppity lists of Best schools are not only questionable and elitist they hurt the schools that are further down the list, or worse, not on the list at all. They are out of touch—really. I also ended my TIME subscription years ago and have never missed it.
- Quit funding pretend teachers. Creating teachers in the fast lane will not improve education. How can less ever be more? Drop all programs that create teachers this unproven way. Convert Teach for America into an aide program.
- Bring back the dignity of education schools. Insist that Schools of Education instruct future teachers in what matters. Drop edTPA. There’s no proof it makes better teachers. Review and close unaccredited online and for-profit colleges that are for making money on the backs of students and teachers.
Teaching is one of the most honorable professions. To all the teachers out there have a great year, know who you are, and thank you!