This week is teacher appreciation week – a week where students all over the country express their gratitude for the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice made by their teachers. Teachers are inspiring; they help us grow in more ways than just book knowledge. I’m sure nearly everyone can think of a teacher who has impacted their life in a positive way. I know for me personally I’ve had more teachers than I can easily count who have left a lasting impression on my life.
This year’s teacher appreciation week is different though. Unlike most years when students can go into their classroom with a smile and a gift for their teacher to show them how much they appreciate their work, they are at home. This year, many students are separated from their teachers and are learning at home.
The coronavirus and resulting school shutdowns put teacher appreciation week in a whole new light and reminds us that you don’t have to teach in a brick and mortar school to be a teacher and that all teachers should be shown appreciation for the challenging but vital work they do.
Recently, an author in Harvard magazine called for a presumptive ban on homeschooling. This lit a firestorm in homeschool and education choice communities all over the internet. (Here is just one of the many response articles.) Especially now that every student in the country is being educated at home. I think this controversy has given us an opportunity to highlight the value that both traditional school teachers and home school teachers (usually parents or other family members, but sometimes virtual school teachers or tutors as well) provide.
Traditional school teachers have been thrust into the heretofore unknown world of virtual education and are having to make drastic changes to their educational methods in rapid time. The uncertainty grows as many states haven’t provided clear guidance for virtual learning, many students lack the technology needed, and some districts have been unclear on whether or not the instructional time will be counted. Communities are rallying together to support these teachers and the students who are being deeply affected by these jarring changes.
On the other hand, many parents are homeschooling for the first time and are becoming teachers themselves. There have been some benefits and some downsides to the unexpected home education many students are now receiving. Some parents are finding their child is doing significantly better at home in an environment that allows more freedom and flexibility to learn in ways tailored to the unique needs of their child. Some parents are finding that their children are really struggling at home – the social isolation is difficult and they thrive in a more structured setting. Both revelations help us to better appreciate the importance of teachers in the lives of children.
Not all teachers are paid teachers in the traditional sense. Some teachers are parents who choose to educate at home while others are teachers in the way we normally think of teaching – at a public or private school, in a classroom setting. Both sets of teachers are valuable and should be celebrated for the work they do. They shouldn’t be forced to be at odds with each other because of politics. Neither should be considered lesser while the other is held up as the “real hero.” Both offer precious resources of time, money, and more to educate the children in their care. Both love their students and feel a sense of fulfillment when they watch a child light up with the understanding of something new.
Are there bad apples? Sure. There will always be bad apples in any group you try to make generalizations about. But, we shouldn’t let the bad apples define the group or take away the appreciation that is rightly due to those who work hard to do good in this world by educating children.
And the beauty of the internet and the 21st century is that we now have online communities that can offer both traditional and parent-teachers support. One such group is the #LearnEverywhere community that has sprung up on Facebook. It offers support and a platform for teachers and families to share materials and learning opportunities with each other.
This Teacher Appreciation Week thank a teacher for the hard work they do – and don’t forget to thank both groups of teachers – school teachers and parent-teachers too.
Fun Ways to Show Appreciation to a Teacher:
- Create a poster to put in your yard showing support for your favorite teachers
- Write a card and send it to them
- Drop a basket of goodies off at your teacher’s house
- Share a post on social media highlighting teachers and your gratitude
- Spread the love with these fun printables from LoveYourSchool.
- Use this list to plan something special for the parent-teachers in your life
Amanda Kieffer is the Communications Associate for the Cardinal Institute for WV Policy