by Connie Matthiessen
Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task. -- educator Haim G.Ginott
I've always enjoyed working at my kids' school – helping out in the classroom or the school library -- but when I leave the building after an hour or two, it's hard to keep from breaking into a run. It's not that I don't love the kids, it's just that being surrounded by quick, demanding, little people -- all with different questions and moods and levels of understanding -- is like being pecked by adorable but persistent chicks.
So I marvel that teachers do it all day every day -- and that so many manage to keep their patience, inspiration, and sense of humor. This is just one of the many reasons I'm grateful for all the great teachers in my childrens' lives.
Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2 – 6), and it's a great opportunity to celebrate your teachers.
There are many ways to recognize Teacher Appreciation Week. At one of my sons' high schools, the PTSA provides lunch for the school's 75-plus teachers and administrators. Parents decorate the shabby cafeteria, covering lunch tables with table cloths and flowers. We also provide the food, and there's always plenty: huge platters of chicken, Asian noodles, pasta, salads, a whole ham, and a tableful of luxurious desserts. The teachers heap their plates and sit down –- for perhaps the only day all year -- to a leisurely lunch. This year, a city supervisor dropped in for a surprise visit to award two members of the faculty "Teacher of the Year" awards.
The teachers are openly grateful in return, thanking parents over and over. "This is my favorite day of the year," one teacher told me.
At my daughter's school, teachers work the week after school closes down, cleaning and organizing their classrooms and meeting to debrief and plan for the next year. On Tuesday that week, parents serve an elegant sit-down meal, with candles and musical accompaniment. There is usually enough food to last the entire week.
"It makes us feel so special," one teacher said. "Parents make dishes that we look forward to every year, and if they know we like a dish, they'll make it even if they've retired the recipe. What makes it so nice is that it's just about adults. The school year is about the kids, but Teacher Appreciation Lunch lets parents and teachers celebrate the school year together."
Given widespread school funding cuts and the increasingly polarized debate over education reform, Teacher Appreciation seems more important than ever this year. Many blame teachers for failing schools and lackluster test scores. Despite meager teacher salaries, some conservative pundits even chide them for wage and benefit demands, pointing out that teachers don't have to work that hard, since they get summers off (check out this Daily Show segment, for example). It's no surprise that teacher morale is low. It's a great time to show them a little appreciation.
Does your child's school celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week? Tell us about Teacher Appreciation rituals where you live.