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Friday, May 8, 2020

Teacher Appreciation Week from an educator's perspective

By Katie Stewart, English Teacher at Highlands High School & Trinity Walsh, College & Career Counselor at Highlands High School

Teaching is a profession unlike any other career.

We are jacks-of-all-trades asked to have so many different talents across many different areas...and often all at the same time. Some days you must be a master magician, a board certified therapist, an Oscar-nominated actor, the best "dad joke" comedian out there, or an expert on a global pandemic.

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But that’s the amazing thing about teaching.  Every day is something new.  Every day there is a new child that needs you to be his or her champion.  And every day you are reminded of the small ways that students, parents, and other teachers appreciate you.  Some days the reminder might be that little Johnny finally learned to zip his backpack so that his homework didn’t spill all over the classroom.  Some days the reminder might be Suzy finally showing up to get some extra help with all the assignments she’s been missing.  Sometimes it’s that the copier wasn’t left with a paper jam for you to surgically remove--SCORE!  But that’s one of the more incredible traits of teachers: they expect nothing, not even these tiny acts of appreciation.

Yet they deserve so much more than a week of Teacher Appreciation.

This year Teacher Appreciation takes on a whole new meaning. Our teachers are being asked to take on a new talent: “Teaching Remotely During a Pandemic” (we’re still trying to find the chapter that addresses this in our education textbooks). But teaching has invaded every student’s home. Parents, guardians, grandparents, and other caregivers, who were likely never trained to teach and more likely never wanted to teach at all, are suddenly teachers of reading, social studies, science and math.


We know you’re doing your best to help Andrew complete his solar oven science experiment that usually happens at school. You are trying your darndest to make sure Jenny learns her spelling words. You are desperately trying to get your grouchy teenage daughter, Grace, out of bed before noon to “meet” with her teacher. We know you are making the best of a tough situation. At the end of this, the number of coffee table meme books that can be created addressing the admiration that parents have for their student’s teachers are never-ending. But here’s the thing: as our governor says, “We are all in this together.”

We are all teaching and we are all doing it to the best of our ability and for that parents deserve some appreciation too.

As educators, we have been watching this unfold in a variety of ways through the eyes of our colleagues, parents, friends on social media, television reporters, and journalists. One thing we have noticed: everyone is making it happen! That’s right, no matter how good or bad you think you’re doing in your yoga pants and sweatshirts from your kitchen table, you are doing awesome. Teachers are being more creative and collaborative than ever before. They are displaying how much they truly care about each and every one of their students. It doesn’t matter if their students have technology or any of the other tools they need to continue their learning – teachers are finding a way.

While teachers didn’t get to have that last week of fun experiments or activities, sprinkled in with a bit of their adult wisdom—that last small showing of love—teachers still gave it their all.

As teachers, we have poured our hearts into these kiddos knowing we have given them the knowledge they needed, motivated by the fact that they are “our kids.” We wanted to make sure students knew we still cared and wanted to make sure that they were OK, not just academically but emotionally. Every educator in America deserves a hug and someone to tell them, “It’s OK.”

This NTI/Remote Learning has taken its emotional toll on our educators. We never got to give that first grader one last hug; we never got to have one last class joke; we never got to give that one student, who we know really needs it, that one last look of “I’ve got your back.” There will be no end of the year party to celebrate the success and allow the students to see us as something other than their teacher.

In March, we just walked away from our classrooms leaving them like a ghost town. The reality of that has settled in. A classroom is a home, and to walk away from your home not knowing it would be the last time for a long while is heartbreaking. And now that the end is here, there is a little more sorrow for that lost last “goodbye” and “I’m so proud of you.”

Our hearts are with all teachers out there.  We see the miracles we all make every day in a classroom, and the same is holding true for these days of distance learning.  We are still making a difference in the lives of our kids.  We are still leading by example.  We are still showing our students love and appreciation. Has it been perfect? No, but we’ve taken the lemons this year has given us and we’ve made some delicious lemonade.

When the last school bell rings (metaphorically, of course), just know all teachers have done incredible work! Someone posted on Twitter, “If someone’s job requires an “appreciation week” it means they’re not getting paid enough.” Teachers NEVER go into this for the money, and we certainly don’t go into this to receive awards and accolades. What we do go into this profession for is to make the lives of young people better. During this once in a lifetime experience, we all did our best, and we made uncertain circumstances better for our kids!

We love being in education, and we have seen some pretty spectacular things; but honestly, this is one of the most spectacular of all. You were given absolutely no time to prepare and you made it work.  Thank you for all of the hours, stress, hard work, high expectations, compassion, and love you have continued to show to each of your students and their families; it has not gone unnoticed.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week --- may you never be more appreciated than in the year 2020. Cheers!

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