Who comes to your mind when you hear the word “teacher?” A nun in full habit with a ready smile? A blue-haired woman in a flowered dress and sensible shoes? How about a lanky young man with scuffed shoes and a short tie? Or a grizzled older fellow with bright eyes wearing a comfortable, rumpled suit?
Whatever image you have right now in your mind of that one teacher, I hope your image of “teacher” comes paired with memories of individuals who served as instructional leaders, advocates, cheer leaders and wise friends when school requirements were intimidating for us. They taught us we could do things we didn’t believe we could do. That’s something to appreciate throughout our lives.
But let’s talk more concrete appreciation. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in half of the 50 U.S. states, teachers on average are making less money now than they were in 1999. The average age of teachers across the nation is about 42, indicating that most teachers have been doing their jobs for quite a while, certainly long enough to have experienced such stagnant wages.
Is that the best we as a community can do to show our appreciation? I hope not.
Along with loving mom, apple pie and baseball, I think most Americans also love a good education. That good education is certainly possible, through a range of experiences, but formal schooling, led by a dedicated teacher, is likely to provide a substantial part of the foundation of each of us.
What I am suggesting is that this Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s make appreciating educators part of our daily conversations in our communities. Not that a little gift card, or something even more substantial might not be nice, but I think a personal greeting to teachers we know might be the very best expression of our thanks. Something like, “Thanks for all your hard work. It’s so important for children and for all of our futures.”
And given the work I do and the perspective I have, if you love to read and always have a good book in progress, you have become a lifelong learner. Please…
Thank a Teacher!