May 8, 2013

Teacher Appreciation

May is National Teacher Appreciation Month. One of our favorite educational websites, Edutopia has devoted a number of articles to this annual event as well as providing tips and ideas for recognizing the important educators in our lives. But one article in particular stands out: Edutopia founder George Lucas’ note on Celebrating Unsung Heroes in Education.

In his highly personal piece, the acclaimed director and educational technology innovator talks about how teachers have enriched his life, and how much he respects and admires the many educators he and his foundation members have met through their work with Edutopia. Lucas also mentions some of the research he and his team intend to pursue on behalf of teachers, focusing in particular on their work with Project-Based Learning and Social and Emotional Learning (topics to which this blog will return in the future).

But one line in particular from his post stands out, and it is advice that can apply to students, parents and teachers alike:

“What matters most is that you keep pushing for greatness and that you don’t give up — even when it seems like you’re being underappreciated and overly stressed and frustrated beyond all belief.

As the school year is winding down and the realization of just what needs to be done before the end hits teachers and students (and parents), it is undeniably a time of tremendous pressure. Tempers and patience can be short, and days can seem long. But it is also a time for looking back on all of the greatness that has already occurred throughout the school year and looking forward to what new achievements and milestones will be met in the year to come. This is a wonderful opportunity for parents to sit down with their children and talk to them about what they have done throughout this school year.

Mirror MirrorAsk them what has made them proud of themselves, where they have seen academic, athletic, artistic and personal growth, and what have been some of the highlights of this grade level for them. It’s also a prime time to look at areas that still need improvement, things on which they want to work in the upcoming year and where they still need help and support. This kind of honest self-examination is a key part of both celebrating their successes and continuing to strive for just the kind of greatness Lucas is talking about.

After the books and supplies have been boxed up for the summer, the desks wiped down, and the whiteboards erased one final time, teachers often meet to discuss these same topics amongst themselves. They will individually and collectively celebrate their successes, examine the areas of instruction they want to amend in the upcoming school year and begin their much-earned summer vacations with a sense of purpose that will carry them through to next September and beyond. In this fashion, and in so many more ways that are too numerous to detail here, teachers are yet again doing what they do best: being role models for us all. While their heroism may be, as Lucas suggests, “unsung,” there is no question that teachers lead by example, and by following their lead in helping your child reflect on his/her successes and areas still in need of improvement, you are showing teachers your appreciation in the best way possible.