From Monday, May 6th to Friday, May 10th, we celebrate Teacher’s Appreciation Week, paying tribute to the world’s most important occupation. This is the week in which we pour out our feelings towards the teachers who were the most influential in our lives. We think back to how much they impacted our lives, how they invested their time, effort and resources to ensure that we were fully prepared to face the real world.
Then, on Saturday, May 11th, we go right back to taking them for granted.
Like so many good causes we relegate to a day, or a week, teachers and their struggles are at best placed on the back burner and at worst ignored altogether for the rest of the year.
Of all the memories that I have of my parents, the ones that resonate with me the most are the ones that showcase their work ethic. Every morning, like clockwork, my father would lay out his clothing, polish his shoes, get dressed and go to work. My mother, on top of getting my brother and I ready for the day, would do the same. They were both teachers, and they were dedicated to their craft.
Yet every summer, when they were off, both of them had to work extra jobs to make ends meet. As a kid, I was blissfully unaware of those struggles. When I got older, though, the truth about their plight, and the plight of other teachers, became more plain. Having been charged with the monumental task of shaping and molding our youth into future leaders and thinkers, they were often severely under-equipped and over-extended. Their jobs didn’t end when the final bell rang. They often had to stay late to catch up, or spend their evenings grading papers all for a meager salary.
As difficult as my parents might have had it, in some ways, teachers of today have it much worse. With new innovations in the profession, there are new and exciting ways of keeping children engaged. New interactive activities have been designed to help children learn better. However, many of these activities are being funded by the teachers themselves. They pay for printouts, lamination, cardboard and other necessary supplies. With an already low salary, these added expenses can leave quite the dent in a teacher’s pocket-book. This past year alone we’ve even heard of teachers having to sell their own blood to make ends meet.
Despite everything teachers of my parents’ generation had to go through, they at least had the support of their students’ parents. Parents back then were generally more invested in their children’s education, and worked together with teachers to solve problems, be they academic or behavioral. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, but nowadays many parents simply view teachers as babysitters. Not only do they rely on teachers to raise their children academically, but they disavow their own responsibilities and blame teachers for all of their child’s shortcomings.
Teaching can be a thankless job, but it can definitely be worth it. I can’t count the times that I’ve been out with one of my parents and a former student would approach us and fondly recall the fun times they’d had. At my father’s funeral, I was taken aback by how many of his old students came to pay respects. They regaled us with all the weird little ways that he endeared himself to them, despite his strict nature. They spoke of the times he would stay with them after school to help them grasp concepts they didn’t quite get the first time, the times he pushed them a little harder than the other students because he knew they had the potential to do great things, the times he bought them food and school supplies with his own money when he noticed they were always without. Because of these things, my father had a place in their memories and in their hearts.
These sentiments show exactly how important and influential teachers can be.
So, this Teacher’s Appreciation Week, I challenge everyone to make a pledge. Do whatever’s in your power to make things a little easier for a teacher in your life. Offer to purchase school supplies, send a random thank you note or email to show your support, partner with the teacher and be an active participant in your child’s education, and finally, do it all year round.