Updated: May 2
It’s time to rebrand Teacher Appreciation Week. As someone with a wife who is a teacher, I would never suggest doing away with free bagels in early May. I cannot stress enough how much teachers enjoy teacher appreciation goodies (which are the kind of perks that often office workers experience regularly), but it’s time to do more. This year, as the teaching profession is in crisis, I couldn’t help but think – what do teachers really want for teacher appreciation week?
I’ll be honest, I thought about reaching out to all of my teacher friends and asking them this question, but it simply felt unjustifiable to give them an extra email to read and create more work for them on the eve of Teacher Appreciation. So instead, here’s my non-comprehensive list of what I think we should give to teachers for Teacher Appreciation in 2023.
A Living Wage. Teaching is an extremely challenging and extremely important job. The fact that teachers need second and third jobs to support their families is despicable.
Common Sense Gun Laws. In May 2022, Newsweek reported that more children had been shot than cops so far that year. Educators expect to make a lot of sacrifices in their profession, but their lives should not be one of them.
Time (to plan lessons, communicate with families and yes, go to the bathroom)! Teaching is one of the only professions where you are “on” all day long and need to do all of their other work in their short prep period, which is often taken away. More realistically, teachers do this work during their off time. I can’t tell you the number of evenings that my wife takes a call with a parent in her class or a colleague who needs to vent.
Readers, you may be thinking, yes, I agree, but how in the world am I supposed to tuck one of these items into a handmade card next week. Believe it or not, the answer is simple: Advocate.
Earlier this year, bills were introduced in the House and the Senate to raise teacher salaries nationwide to $60,000 (the average is currently $42,500). After you bring some cookies to your child’s teacher next week, call up your Senator and tell them you support the Pay Teachers Act or tell your congressperson you support the American Teachers Act. Continue to fight for gun reform – you can find actions you can take in my recent blog. There are a couple of different paths to support teachers on number 3. To create systemic change in this area, you can connect with your local teachers’ union or talk with your local school board to advocate for more teacher planning time. For a more short-term solution, consider asking your child’s teacher if they’d like you to make photocopies, organize the classroom library or help with other time-consuming tasks.
I’ve often heard that we only have “appreciation weeks” for professionals who we don’t pay enough, don’t support enough and don’t value enough. Let’s take our support for teachers a step beyond appreciation. Appreciation helps in a singular moment, but advocacy can strengthen the teaching profession for years to come.