Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Really Appreciating Teachers

We are in the midst of Teacher Appreciation Week, and whether it is the educators featured on Jeopardy or the luncheon at your child's school, there seem to be lots of activities that commemorate the important role that teachers play -- and have played -- in all of our lives.

There are many ways that parents and students can thank and support teachers. The nonprofit Donors Choose lists supplies that public school teachers need for their students or classrooms and donors can select a project and provide some or all of the funding for it. To date, Donors Choose has helped fulfill over 700,000 projects for teachers all over the country, impacting more than 18 million students.

But there are other, less tangible ways to let teachers know how much they are appreciated. Write a thank you note to your child's teacher or to a teacher who affected your own life. Let him or her know how their kindness or skill made an impact and maybe even changed the trajectory of your child's (or your) life. It may seem outdated and downright corny, but we've known teachers who pull out their folder of just such notes, many years after they were received, and warmly remember the students and parents who took the time to write their appreciation.

Give the gift of your time, something that is admittedly in short supply for most busy parents. Policies vary from school to school, but most schools welcome parents for scheduled visits for everything from reading stories to teaching a lesson on a special area of expertise. Are you a chef, a carpenter, an artist? And don't forget more mundane ways to help, things like setting up a classroom closet, sorting books, and helping out at school events. These kinds of activities offer a real benefit for parent volunteers, too. You will get to know your child's teacher better, meet other parents of students in his or her class, and possibly even see your own child in a new light, since kids can behave much differently at school than they do at home.

Of course, many teachers would echo the sentiment noted in a piece by education reporter Valerie Strauss that appeared in yesterday's Washington Post, in which she notes,  "many teachers ... say that what they really need isn’t free food and a once-a-year exercise in flattery. What they want, they say, is for their profession to be respected in a way that accepts educators as experts in their field. They want adequate funding for schools, decent pay, valid assessment, job protections and a true voice in policy making." That would be a great way to say thank you to these dedicated professionals.

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