National Teacher Appreciation Week – Why say thank you?

National Teacher Appreciation Week runs from May 7 -11, 2018. It’s a time when teachers are given their annual donut or taco breakfast as a thank you for their hard work. Do you know what they’d enjoy in addition to that? A simple “thank you” from you.

Good teachers make it look easy. But behind the scenes, there’s quite often some turmoil. It takes a great deal of mental and emotional strength to push aside the bureaucratic shenanigans or district politics happening on the campus in order to concentrate on the most important people there – the students.

Teachers must make sure that they meet the needs of all students, no matter what gift, disability, challenge or learning style each child has. An elementary school teacher might have to deal with the same group of 20 students all day long. In middle school and high school, where the students attend different classes, the teachers might get a break from difficult students when they leave to go to the next class, but they’ll also have a student load of 100 to 200 students, which means a heck of a lot of grading.

But back to the turmoil. I’d like to pull the curtain back for you so you can understand what teachers go through. At every job, there’s usually some kind of drama and at least one jerk of a co-worker or boss who can make life miserable. But when it comes to teachers, I hear so many non-teachers say, “Must be nice to have that cush 8:00 – 3:00 job.” If they only knew…and now they will.

Situation: A high school teacher was belligerent to her co-workers during their grade level meetings, and she was also not doing a good job in the classroom. The other teachers tried their best to work with her, but she would have none of it. The situation got so tense that the teachers decided to talk to the administration. The belligerent teacher was new and could have easily been put on a growth plan or had her contract non-renewed. Instead, for the next school year, the administration decided to change the subjects of the teachers in that group, so that they wouldn’t have to work with the belligerent teacher.

Why was this a stupid decision? For one, the administrators didn’t address the problem, and now the belligerent, underperforming teacher is one year closer to a continuing contract. Two, the belligerent, underperforming teacher learned that it’s fine to operate her way. Three, all of those teachers who were assigned to new subjects have to start from scratch with learning the new curriculum, which is a disservice to those students. Four, the teachers who were moved saw it as punishment for trying to do what was right, so now their morale is in the dumps. It takes even more energy to fight past the sadness and anger to get to school by 7:30, teach eight classes, stay after school until 5:30 to grade, and then go home. When teachers aren’t at their best, who does that hurt? The students. When teachers don’t let this mental and emotional state affect their performance, it completely wipes them out and jades them.

I remember when I first started teaching, there was a teacher who had his retirement countdown clock on the chalkboard. He counted down for two years. I thought it was a disgrace. How could he be so negative? How could he give up like that? But after witnessing what I have over the last 25 years (first as a teacher, then as a consultant with my Less Stress for Teachers book and training), I totally get it. Teachers get crapped on every single day – by administrators who take the easy road instead of doing what’s right, by parents who think that their children can do no wrong, by students who think they can do whatever they want, and by colleagues who shouldn’t be in the classroom.

Are there some underperforming teachers out there? As in any profession, of course there are. That’s why you should be thankful when your child has a teacher who gives his or her all day in and day out no matter what kind of drama is happening in the background.

If your child has a teacher who is a rock star, be sure to say thank you.

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