A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Dear administrators: For Teacher Appreciation Week--- how 'bout some real appreciation?

I now have to, as my friend educat would say, remove something from my craw.

This week is, as you may know, teacher appreciation week. So I would like to address myself to the topic of teacher appreciation.

This survey from the NEA determined that what teachers want most from their students as a sign of appreciation is simply to be told, "Thank you." You can even go to this site online to send a thank you to one of your favorite teachers between now and December 28.

Now, the last few years, we have been given a breakfast and a little trinket on one morning during this week. That's it. This usually consists of coming into the faculty break room, having a squeezy ball or keychain tossed at you by an AP as you enter the door while a help-yourself buffet is offered of doughnuts, fruit, muffins, or bagels and milk (as you can tell, the secretaries choose the food). I wonder if the gift is tossed toward us so that actual physical contact is not made, but that's probably just a coincidence.


Look, I have to say that I would forgo the trinket and the breakfast in lieu of a sincere expression of thanks. Look us in the eye and shake our hands or pat our backs or whatever and say one thing that shows that you really do know what we as teachers do.

Which is, by the way, the thing that makes administrators' jobs necessary in the first place. It would be nice if administrators would realize that they are managers of teachers, not just commanders. Teacher motivation is part of the job of an excellent administrator. As it is, many of the administrators I have known-- not all, but many-- seem to view teachers as tools to be utilized rather than as the people who do the work of a school. They seem oblivious-- willfully so-- to matters of school climate that they could control which impact morale. How many schools have you walked into in which the administrators have preferred parking places, upholstered furniture, their own bathroom, air conditioning and heating that they actually can control, carpeting, and the like? How many schools have you been to in which teachers have anything close to parity in any of their classroom furniture? How many of us spend hundreds of our own dollars making sure that our own students have materials?

It's ridiculous to expect that situation to change, but this disparity does send an unambiguous message. Why am I told that I can only have $75 to spend on my classroom a year when that amount wouldn't even cover the cost of two packs of scantrons? I once worked at a place where I was given a box of blank paper to last the entire year. When teachers needed copies, they had to bring their own paper to the copier. Once that paper was gone, my students would receive no more copies of instructional materials. Meanwhile, the principal had fresh flowers in her office every week.

But, really, I would be happy with my administrators being able to name one thing that I have done this year. And I imagine I am not alone.

Being treated with respect and having my efforts recognized would do it for me. And the bonus would be the money they would save on the trinkets. A sincere thank you is so much cheaper. But apparently harder.



At 5/9/07, 7:32 PM, Blogger Butterfly Angel said...

Hear, hear... I agree with you 100%. Spare me the 'tokens of appreciation' which were probably chosen by the same ones who selected breakfast.

This what we are doing at our campus this week: each day a different club (NJHS, PAL, etc.) does the token stuff for teachers and assistants. I have yet to see or hear anything from our administrators.

"A sincere thank you is so much cheaper. But apparently harder."
Couldn't have said it any better!

By the way, thank you for being a dedicated educator. The world needs more like you!


ps. Prom details??

At 5/9/07, 11:32 PM, Blogger educat said...

Dang. Right on the nose.

I would return my insulated lunch bag and pizza from the student council for an understanding thank you.

My craw is full of testing this week. Perhaps with enough wine and prayer I shall speak of it someday. The craw, she is full.

At 5/10/07, 7:05 AM, Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

I received a nice gushy teacher appreciation certificate from the PTA--and it said the same thing that every other teacher's certificate said. What kind of thanks is that?

At 5/10/07, 8:51 AM, Blogger MasonPiper said...

I had to comment, I am an AP, and am just about to go pick up the spread for today. I can verify that that it was chosen because when we had it last semester, it was the one that teacher talked about weeks later. (insert smiley) I know that the personal touch is what leading a school is about. One of my mentors told me, just walk the school and make sure you listen to each teacher every day, some will just say “hi, can you believe what that kid did” but others will let you know what is going on. It’s the best advice I ever got and something that actually makes my job, if not fun at least enjoyable. My thanks to all of you and remember to bay at the moon.

At 5/10/07, 10:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ummm... Trinket? Generic Certificate of Appreciation? Food? Nope, none of that. I first discovered that it was Teacher Appreciation Week when I got a letter from the volunteer coordination in my box. It wasn't a thank you. It simply reminded the teachers that we should take time during our celebrations to thank the parent volunteers (which, of course, I do)

MN teacher

At 5/10/07, 5:02 PM, Anonymous redkudu said...

Yep, no mention of it at my school either.

At 5/10/07, 6:32 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

b.a.- speak, sistah! Thanks, and know that I treasure your hard work to reach your students everyday.

educat-- sending you love-filled thoughts to help you endure testing.

ctg- exactly.

masonpiper- I want to thank you, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, for actually getting input and for seeking out teachers. Bless you. Can I have a bit of your DNA to clone you? And some of your mentor's too?

anon MN tchr: and you thought, "What celebrations?"-- right?

redkudu-- heavy sighing. Well, at least we've all got each other.

And to all of you, know that you are appreciated, and in my prayers.

At 5/10/07, 11:17 PM, Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

I've had similar thoughts lately. Effective school leadership must value the teachers more than self.

At 5/11/07, 12:13 AM, Blogger happychyck said...

We had Thanks a Latte at my school. A portable coffee shop truck thing was on campus through the lunch period a few days ago to make us iced coffees and smoothies. It was fun, but I think it is the manner in which it is presented. I feel that my admin does appreciate us, so the small things feel thoughtful.

My principal has won a principal of the year award, and when I saw her in the lounge recently, I congratulated her. She immediately turned it around and said, "You know, it's an honor, but I'm humbled because I stand on the shoulders of all the teachers at this school." If you didn't know her, you'd probably think it sounds hokey, but she is sincere with her compliments. (She's also sincere in her criticism, too. I wouldn't want to be on her bad side.)

I've been on the other side with bipolar, self-serving admin. There's nothing that they could have done that would have made me happy except RESPECT. So simple.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to you, too!

At 5/11/07, 8:46 PM, Anonymous Jude said...

Okay. This is weird. I live in a small town, and I'm vice-president of the PTA. This is what we do for our teachers during this week: Cater 3 lunches (this year they were Italian, Mexican, and Chinese); provide 15 minute on-site massages for two days (so that everyone has a chance to get one); and the culmination is the teacher appreciation catered breakfast, which we held this morning. We seek donations from area businesses for *all* staff--certified and classified. This morning, we PTA officers lined the stairs into the breakfast area and *applauded* for each teacher as they entered and personally thanked each one. Then we called their names and let each one pick out a colorfully-wrapped present (which ranged from $10 gift certificates to 18 rounds of golf for two people to a fifty dollar bill to lots of dinners to weekend getaways--we can't control what the businesses will give, so we emphasize the random nature of the giveaway).

At the elementary school when I was in PTA, we provided 5 home-cooked meals each day for lunch (we had less money to work with) and gave no trinkets.

This morning, the PTA president gave a speech about how much she appreciated the teachers and staff; the treasurer talked about how fortunate we were to have such great teachers in our district; and the principal talked about how much we value our teachers.

I can't believe they don't at least *try* at your schools.

At 5/12/07, 10:14 PM, Blogger QuakerDave said...

On out TAD, my principal came to every classroom with a cart loaded with (really good) coffee and donuts and fruit and such. Made a big fuss. Very nice.

By the end of the day (no lie), I was in her office telling her the union would be grieving two new policies she wants to institute for next year, both of which involve contract violations, because they involve more work without compensation.

Next year, I get my own breakfast.

At 5/12/07, 10:15 PM, Blogger QuakerDave said...

That should have said *OUR* T.A.D.

At 1/17/09, 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These comments sound very immature and very one sided. As educators we present lessons to students and then= teach them .based on the subject, to evaluate from various perspectives, and developing a true comprehension of the topic at hand. That is our responsibility as educators, to help students develop and grow, but it seems that teachers sometimes forget and act more immature than the students they teach. It is easy to point out what others should do and how you can do it better. But if you truly cared about admin's involvement why don't you make an effort, no matter what it is, to communicate with them. There are also many things you could do, not only them. Everyone seems to get consumed by what they are going through and we forget that all of us are working toward the same goal. So, be the bigger person and use your free time to be positive, constructive, and productive with all that you do because you have the most important job that leaves a lasting impression.
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops*


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