It is the national PTA Teacher Appreciation Week 2016, and there are a number of ideas hosted on the PTA’s website for how you can #thankateacher. If you are a teacher, you can start a GoFundMe campaign for classroom supplies or, if you are a parent, to personally thank your children’s teachers. The PTA offers a toolkit so you can plan events to honor teachers in your schools as part of a celebration that has taken place in the first week of May since 1984.
(The National Alliance for “Public” Charter Schools also decided to schedule their “National Charter Schools Week” for the same week this year in what I am sure was not a deliberate effort to steal some free publicity at all.)
Teacher Appreciation Week is, of course, a lovely idea, and when it was launched in 1984, I doubt any of its founders could envision the issues facing teachers and teaching today. Teachers across the country are getting cards, flowers, baked good, and some very well deserved naches. Historically, teachers always have been highly motivated by the affective rewards of teaching – seeing children learn, gaining affirmation from their successes, building relationships with children and colleagues – but who can say no a nicely concentrated dose of positivity?
Gift baskets and flowers, however, don’t address the other 175 days of the school year, and those remain, as they have for some time now, unnecessarily stressfuland subject to policies and incentives that diminish teachers’ autonomy and satisfaction in their work. Teachers remain with policies that reduce their ability to plan their own classrooms, subjected to evaluations based upon invalid statistical methods using standardized test scores, and blamed for everythingfrom being lazy to putting the future of the nation in jeopardy. No wonder thatenrollments in teacher preparation programs have fallen steeply from a high of over 700,000 in 2009 to barely above 450,000 in 2014 – high school students have ears and eyes, after all. If we keep appreciating teachers like this, we may not have very many of them left to appreciate.
How should we really appreciate our teachers all year long? A few suggestions:
Actually Treat Teachers as Professionals. Education reform has an unfortunate tendency to treat teachers as if they are hopelessly outdated, the equivalent of a quill pen and parchment in the digital age. In that view, teacherHow to Appreciate Teachers | Daniel Katz, Ph.D.: