Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Teacher Appreciation?

It's Teacher Appreciation Week!

This is a week of gifts from students and principals if you are lucky. If  you are not lucky, it's just another week. No matter your luck there are some things teachers would really enjoy during this week.

From the students - how about a week of good behavior? A week of  doing all your homework? A week of please and thank you, excuse me and I'm sorry. A week of good behavior. A week of walking quietly in the hallway, of trouble-free recess, of copying homework in a timely fashion. And most importantly, how about a week of doing your best and working hard?

From the parents - you know what would be a lovely gift for a teacher? A letter of thanks for the little things, checking your child's bookbag every night this week, volunteering to come in and help, supervising homework, reading your child a book, maybe even a letter to the principal about how much you appreciate the teacher. And most importantly, showing your child that they are loved and valued so they will come to school in a good frame of mind.

From other teachers - Nothing says we can't celebrate each other! We can give each other encouragement and a listening ear. We can share a great activity or lesson, we can keep a sense of humor about all the crap in school, we can compliment another class or teacher on something special. We can keep our class in the room for a prep period and give the prep teacher a break they weren't expecting. We can support each other in these times of uncertainty and attack. We can stick together.

From the principal - How about giving a week off from lesson plans and observations? Picking up the class from lunch and bringing them into the classroom would be wonderful - a teacher might even have a chance to visit the rest room! How about showing a movie in the auditorium the last two periods to give everyone a needed break? How about taking the time to write a nice note to your teachers to tell them you appreciate them and why?

From the general public - I know teacher-bashing is fashionable these days, but can you take a minute to research the thing you're up in arms about? I can clear some things up right here. 1)In K-12, tenure means due process, nothing more. It means that if I am accused of something, I have the right to defend myself. It doesn't mean teachers have a job for life. There is no such job in education. 2) Test scores measure how much a student knows on one day out of 180. Because they measure student learning, it is statistically wrong to use them for anything else, like evaluating the teacher. 3) Teachers are not responsible for our failing schools. First of all, standardized scores are the highest they've been, graduation rates are the highest they've been, college attendance is the highest it's been. The achievement gap is the smallest it's been. Not all schools are failing. In fact, most schools are not! The schools which score the lowest on standardized tests are schools with high concentrations of students living in poverty. Countries who score higher than us on PISA tests do not have near the poverty level the USA has. When we only consider the students at the level of poverty other countries have, the USA leaves the other countries in the dust. We're #1 as long as we ignore the 25% poverty level of our country. 4) Our teachers unions are for improving the working conditions for teachers AND pupils and do not support keeping bad teachers working. They DO support helping teachers get better at their craft and making sure teaching conditions are healthful and fair. Our unions are proud of the job we are doing to make the future lives of students better through education and guidance today.

For politicians - It's Teacher Appreciation Week. Also Charter School Week. I think those two cancel each other out. I'm not saying that charter schools don't appreciate their teachers. Clearly some of them do. What I am trying to get across is that the advent of charter schools was also the advent of teacher bashing in the name of "choice." Charter school proliferation will be the death of quality public education if allowed to continue as it has been. Give the public school teachers a present and evaluate the charters the exact same way you evaluate the neighborhood public schools. And make the charters open their financial books the way the public schools have to. Make the charters educate the same level of ELL, Special Ed and behavior problems that the public schools in the neighborhood MUST educate. If President Obama wanted to appreciate teachers, one of the things he should undo is making this Charter School Week.

So, while we love the chocolates, flowers, mugs, and gift cards, the above things mean so much more.

We appreciate you, too. Thanks.

Still learning!

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