What Teachers Want–Or So Say Students!

Teacher Appreciation Week is a time of mixed emotions. I can’t lie-I thoroughly enjoy the perks; but ironically, the very existence of Teacher Appreciation Week seems to prove that we are more often not as appreciated as we should be. This week, as I found myself unexpectedly covering a silent study hall, I pondered what I might write to recognize the particular tension of TAW. As the period came to a close, I decided to see what my students might say about it, with no idea what I’d hear.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week members of the CTQ Collabratory and teachers across the country are participating in #TeachingIs, a social media movement seeking to elevate public perception of the teaching profession. Click here to learn how you can participate.

Teacher Appreciation Week is a time of mixed emotions. I can’t lie-I thoroughly enjoy the perks. But ironically, the very existence of Teacher Appreciation Week seems to prove that we are more often not as appreciated as we should be. This week, as I found myself unexpectedly covering a silent study hall, I pondered what I might write to recognize the particular tension of TAW. As the period came to a close, I decided to see what my students might say about it, with no idea what I’d hear.

Not wanting to lead students toward any particular line of thinking, I said this: “I have a question for anyone who’s interested. I assume you’re aware that this week is Teacher Appreciation Week.”  There were some nods, a few excited “yeahs,” and also a few 8th grade groans.

“I wonder what you think would be the ideal way to show appreciation for teachers. From your perspectives, what would teachers want?”

Hands shot up.

“Um, new text books…and chocolates!” the first student said. I smiled, but didn’t reveal my opinions on the matter.

“A raise!” the next student said.

“Hey, you took my answer!” another student blurted out.

“Me too!” said a third.

“An extra month of vacation… in the winter!” the next student said. They were having fun now.

“Yeah!” some others agreed. There was a pause, and it appeared the conversation might be over.

Then a boy raised his hand. “I know!” he said, excitedly pointing his finger in the air. “The ability…” he started, then paused, as if to reevaluate what he was about to say. “The ability… to tell students exactly what they think.”

I have to admit I was kind of surprised by this. “Think about it,” he explained. “Lots of times teachers have to be thinking something they can’t say. They have to, you know, like be patient, or keep their own opinion out of it.”  I gotta say, I was impressed by his ability to think outside of his own perspective.

Later, I thought about my students’ responses.  It occurred to me that, with a little tweaking, their comments had hit on the most central interests of today’s teachers.

What would we like in place of Teacher Appreciation Week? 

–Up to date resources, and some additional perks (if not chocolate, then how about a salad bar?)

–Professional pay, that reflects the complexity of our work and the value of our contribution to society

–A 21st century schedule (if not an additional month off, then how about a more flexible, year-round schedule with plenty of smaller breaks for rejuvenation and reflection?)

–More voice and autonomy– autonomy in the classroom with students and voice within our profession

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