It’s Teacher Appreciation Week in America. I appreciate many of my wonderful teachers, and I try to emulate their characteristics in my classroom. Chances are you, too, have had some wonderful teachers in your life. If you haven’t thanked a teacher recently, now is the time to do so.
What follows is my personal list of the top five reasons we should spend time this week thanking teachers for all they do. If you have teachers in your life who have done these things — and more — for you, remember to show them some appreciation this week.
1. Thank a teacher for investing themselves in their jobs.
Teaching is an intensely personal job. There is a reason teachers use the language when they do when they talk about their jobs: “my students,” “my kids,” “my school.” Taking ownership in the job is part of what makes it so difficult. When you see your students struggling, it can be akin to seeing your own children struggling. My freshman year of high school, my English teacher pulled me aside to ask me who the young man I was holding hands with in the hallway was, and he questioned me about him like my own father would. I’ll never forget that moment, because it showed me he cared about what happened to me outside of the classroom.
2. Thank a teacher for helping to cultivate students’ interests.
My junior high English teacher is the reason I am an English teacher myself. He recognized that I was an avid reader and read well above my grade level, and he handed me book after book after book to read on my own time. I thought it was so cool that he was trusting me with grown-up books. I remember reading “Fahrenheit 451″ by Ray Bradbury and thinking about what the world would be like without books, and that’s why I wanted to be a teacher. Not to share books with my students, necessarily, but to help students find their paths in life.
3. Thank a teacher for caring beyond the school year.
It’s no secret that teachers look forward to summer vacation as much as the students do, but the reality of saying goodbye to your students and hoping that they take what you have taught with them through life is difficult to face. On the last day of my freshman year of high school, one of my teachers came into the room, sat down and looked at us in silence for a second. Then, he sighed deeply and said, “I wish we had more time together. I wish I could tell you all everything I know about life. I wish we had more time.” At that moment, I knew he would miss us once we were gone, and that’s a powerful feeling for any student.
4. Thank a teacher for teaching outside of the school day.
Randy Pausch, of “The Last Lecture” fame, says in his speech that people always asked him how he got tenure a year early. He said, “Call me any Friday night in my office after 7:00 PM and I’ll tell you.” In my student years, I sent many an email and visited many a teacher after school, and they always responded promptly or welcomed me in their classrooms after hours with smiles on their faces. Teachers have families and lives outside of school, but their ability to provide extra help — and to be happy to do it — makes them special people. It’s not possible for teachers to leave their work at work, and having a teacher that is willing to offer help after class can mean the difference between a student’s success or failure.
5. Thank a teacher for listening more than speaking.
When we think of teachers, we often think of lecturers who bore students to death with endless facts and notes. Some of my best teachers worked toward discussions in class where they never said a word. Sure, they would add information or redirect a conversation if they had to, but they let us talk and they listened. Having a teacher privilege what you have to say can be incredibly empowering. It teaches you that you have a voice, and that is one of the most important lessons of all.
Photo Credit: Editor B