Like many teachers, I have some mixed feelings about Teacher Appreciation Week. I wouldn’t want to do away with it, but there’s something awkward about the fact that we need this week as badly as we do. At the same time, we do not choose this work for recognition. When we get it, sometimes we doubt its sincerity, and other times we just don’t know how to receive the acknowledgement. Often the messages of appreciation that come to us in a way we understand and feel best about are from students.
In my first years teaching, my school held an assembly in the auditorium during Teacher Appreciation Week and presented each teacher with a plaque or gift of some sort in front of the school. I must say it was nervewracking. It was a large school and each of us was called by name into the spotlight of the whole school community, while the audience applauded.
I remember the first time I walked up there to receive my recognition and I got to hear the full auditorium of kids clapping for me. And my students didn’t just clap; they cheered loudly. I had no idea how warm that would make me feel. As a beginning teacher, I felt legitimized—like they were telling me I was in the right place.
This year, my school parent organization showered us with a breakfast, which certainly put a big smile on everyone’s faces at 7:45 in the morning. Later in the week, I received one of the nicest gifts of appreciation I’ve ever gotten. It was a letter from a student, shared to me on a Google Doc.
I was expecting a few kind words garnished with some adolescent-style emoticons. What I got totally stunned me! It was an essay the student had written about me as a teacher! It began with a nice hook and was well-structured. It included detailed evidence in the form of properly punctuated quotes from other students about why they liked my teaching and the things they learned in my class. I was really touched by the thoughtfulness and creativity of the gift, which showed appreciation for my actual teaching in both form and content. Really, what more could an English teacher ask for?
(Hmm… maybe revisions? Just joking; so far I have held back the urge to write comments!)
[image credit: redstarresume.wordpress.com]