Dear Politicians, Non-Educators, Big Business, and Random People on the Street Who Feel the Need to Tell Me How to Do My Job:
Each year, May 5-9 marks the week dedicated to teachers all over the country: Teacher Appreciation Week. During these five days, parents, students, and those grateful for all that we do are encouraged to bring us gifts of gratitude that say “Hey! Thanks!” and we love to get them, even if we’re never going to use them. (I mean how many bottles of bubble bath and lotion does one girl need? I’m still working on the ones I received in ’07.) Yet, I feel about Teacher Appreciation Week the way I feel about Valentine’s Day. If the ONLY time you show me you love or appreciate me is during a specific time of year, well, how genuine can your love or appreciation be?
This year during this week of thankfulness, I saw more Facebook Posts, news articles, and emails thanking teachers for all of their hard work. Politicians, school officials, parents and community members suddenly felt the need to show their gratitude. The profession that was criticized for being broken suddenly became worthy of praise. The teachers who were told they weren’t doing enough for children became community heroes. Inexplicably, those who spent the better part of the year criticizing us and our profession could see our value. Imagine that.
Forgive me my cynicism. It comes naturally. However, being a teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week just makes it worse. This is not to say that there aren’t people who are genuinely thankful for what we do in our schools. (I am convinced I have the BEST parents in all of education) but there seems to be far more whose gratitude is flat-out duplicitous. I submit that if people are sincerely interested in how teachers what to be appreciated they should do something groundbreaking! Ask a teacher. But since no seems to be asking and certainly no one asked me, I’ll just take the opportunity to share.
The Top 3 Things I Would Like for Teacher Appreciation Week Next Year
1) Student assessments that don’t involve my kids sitting through days and weeks of mind numbing tests that in no way show what they know and are able to do. One of the most heartbreaking moments for any teacher is when their students perform poorly on a high stakes test because they couldn’t figure out which answer to bubble in; either they were too vague, too similar, or too unclear. Confusing my kids and stressing them out over an ill written test accomplishes what exactly? Right! It shows how good a teacher they had, which brings me to request #2…
2) A teacher evaluation system that bases my ability to teach more on my ABILITY TO TEACH, and less on my students’ ability to pass a test. The assumption that student test scores solely are an accurate method of determining teacher quality makes as much sense as dentists being evaluated solely by how well their clients brush their teeth. Dentists have no more control over what happens when their clients get home than I do when my students take their end of course tests. It’s what they do DURING the appointment that influences what their clients do when they leave. Before using a set of numbers to determine whether or not I am good at what I do, how about you come and see what I do. Of course to understand what I do you’d have to have DONE what I do, which brings me to request #3…
3) Instructional leaders who are, or have been, educators. Forgive me, but it is very difficult for you to tell me anything about how to instruct my students if you’ve never had to instruct ANY students. And I don’t care how much money you have, who your family is, or where you went to school. If your only experience with students is when you were one please leave keep your opinions to your self. Please and thank you.
A Teacher Who Wants to Be Appreciated