This week, I’m co-piloting Teacher Appreciation for the school I work at and once attended. Which, by the way, makes me feel a little like a kid who snuck into the teacher’s lounge sometimes.
What? You ask. Aren’t you a teacher? Why are you actually doing things for Teacher Appreciation Week? Shouldn’t you just be kicking back and enjoying?*
Oh, friends, no. Earlier this year, I offered my help with STUCO, which my new coworker, knowing she would be going out on maternity leave this spring, readily accepted. So now that she’s at home with her adorable baby boy, the second string is in the game, and we’re doing alright, I think.
But even before I worked at MHS, I always took time to have my students (yearbook, usually) do something for teachers on this week. Why? Because teaching is a team effort. It’s not something you can do completely alone. I know. I’ve tried.
I may be a teacher, but I still appreciate amazing ones – whether they taught me, or they taught my kids. You see, it’s very tempting to act like a natural when I get things right, and I do like to make things look easy for myself, but that’s only because people outside the world of education don’t truly understand what it takes to be a teacher.
The thing is, we don’t just walk in the door, teach a lesson we slaved over the night before, stay for hours to do tutoring or recoup hours, attend games and performances, grade 180 research papers, and also have a life because we’re excellent at time management. Because we have life all figured out.*
All of that is work and the reason why many of us are the very definition of “hot mess.” But that’s not really the hard part. The hard part is helping people understand that we want to do all that.
That we crave the crazy.
Because in the end, we’re not just there to teach kids how to write a persuasive essay, balance a chemical equation, find the x, or describe the various aspects of the subsaharan climate.
We’re not there to only teach anything, really.
We’re there to care.
I can’t be that person for every student. It’s too much. I don’t have enough in me to do it when I teach almost 180 students. And honestly, I just can’t find a single ounce of love for a handful of them.
But that’s why I have a team, or as some people refer to it at my school, a family. They pick up where I leave off, they reach the kids that I can’t, and often, they’re even there when I need them. Together, we can do some pretty impressive things.
This is why it’s not a problem for me to recognize this for everything they do, even if I’m the same. I couldn’t do what I do without them.
My closure, for the one class I taught after standardized testing today, was this:
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. In your notebook, describe one trait that you have that others should appreciate you for.
The blank looks abounded, folks. They didn’t get it.
“Don’t you mean a reason why we appreciate a teacher, Miss?”
“No,” I told them. “True validation comes from within yourself, and I want you to take a minute and recognize what makes you a special, valuable, and important person. Because many of you have told me why you appreciate me, or even made me something. I just want to make sure that you also appreciate yourself.”
I’d love to tell you that the kids were awestruck and some of them cried and there were hugs and it was like a scene from Stand and Deliver or some other cliche but beloved educational staple.*
But that’s not how things always work – sometimes teachable moments are a little more real.
In this case, it was just awkward and uncomfortable because the kids don’t know how to handle what I told them. But they’re not alone – sometimes even adults are awkward and uncomfortable, but we know how to make it funny and sweet, thanks to life experience. For example, a very sweet coworker of mine, who may or may not have witnessed my displeasure at someone being a tad negative told me yesterday:
“I appreciate everything you’ve done for Teacher Appreciation Week.”
And she was being cute, but she meant it. So did I, when I said:
“I appreciate your appreciation of the appreciation.”
Because really, folks, it’s so much easier to appreciate the good things and people in your life when you feel appreciated by others.
* These are not real things teachers know how to do anyway.