You know your chosen profession is considered a crap job when they give it an entire week of public appreciation each year.
Look around. There are no Attorney Appreciation banners flying in front of the Probate Court and your local bank doesn’t take an ad out in the newspaper to honor Loan Manager Recognition Month. Why not? These professionals don’t feel socially maligned or in need of extrinsic rewards beyond their salary and standing in society. They feel successful because they are seen as successful. Not so the teacher.
Teacher Appreciation Week just feels oily to me. Like I’ve taken out a leaky bag of trash and others want to thank me for doing it so they were spared the smell and stains. Yes, maybe I leave here most days covered in the stench of adolescent angst and I drive home on the fumes of untapped potential, but you don’t need to remind me. And I’m here to tell you that you can take your inspirational magnets and coffee cups and put them in your own damn tag sale for a change. I don’t need that sort of appreciation.
Instead, appreciate how your kid is growing and changing because of our time together. See how her face lights up when she talks about the myths we’re reading together. Notice how your son has remembered to bring his homework in for the past three weeks without reminders.
When you feel the impulse to speak to other parents about me from the soccer sidelines, think about whether or not the things you say would cause your child to feel differently about our time together if your words were overheard by your child. Understand that I am doing my best when I work with your child, but I am limited by my own life experiences and understandings. If I have done or said something in my work with your child that doesn’t sit right with you, by all means, call me on it. Give me the opportunity to hear your concerns before they are shared with others. I would appreciate that.
Realize that I choose to work with children for a reason. I find their honesty and unjaded view of the world a good fit for my own perspective most days. Know that polite, adult discourse is heavy lifting for me. That I would rather chaperone an overnight field trip to Six Flags than endure the pain of parent-teacher conferences. Understand that I cannot always find the right words to express my concern for your child’s well-being in a way that lets you know they need social-emotional attention beyond what I can provide, and that the grades they earn in my class matter much less than how they feel about themselves. See that our work together on their behalf is invaluable.
Just as it would be silly for me to hang up a banner stating how much I appreciate the studious things my students do, this vague, meaningless praise is what teacher appreciation week amounts to for me. If you appreciate what your child can now do, and you believe my efforts had something to do with their growth, let me know about it in a way that is both thoughtful and specific. That I would appreciate.