The greatest gift you can give teachers this holiday season

Apple2It’s traditional for parents to give their child’s teacher(s) a holiday gift. For some, that means a carefully hand crafted card or other item specially made by their child that teachers treasure for years to come. Others may include a gift card (also much appreciated!) or another type of small gift. These gifts go a long way in helping teachers know how much parents recognize the work they do day in and day out for their children.

In addition to tokens of appreciation, there is a much bigger, more impactful gift that parents can give their teachers. It will show appreciation more than a physical item ever could. It’s the gift of respect.

Teachers have a difficult, stressful and, quite often, thankless job. They have to maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity, and make sure each and every child receives the best learning experience possible. This can mean individualizing instruction for 15 – 20 classroom students on a daily basis, (or in the case of specials teachers, it can be hundreds), in a way that makes sense to the child and in the overall classroom environment.

Their job is extremely important as they impact the lives of children and provide an education that prepares them for life. A teacher’s significance in our society cannot be underestimated. In some cases, teachers may even be the only positive adult role model in a child’s life, and their role goes far beyond the classroom.

In recent years, a teacher’s job has become even more difficult due to the amount of additional and unrealistic expectations placed on them. Decisions that have a tremendous impact on their jobs are being made by politicians and others with little to no knowledge about education. Because of the extreme focus on assessment, a lot of the autonomy and decision-making has been removed from the classroom. Teachers are being evaluated using convoluted, inequitable measurements, which in many cases causes them to teach in a way that goes against everything they know about what is best for children. As a result, many of them have chosen to resign from the job they love and thought was their calling. This number is increasing by the masses.

Many parents are not happy with the changes being made to our educational system, which includes Common Core State Standards and the high stakes placed on testing. It’s easy for parents to see what is happening on the surface level and think teachers are to blame. After all, teachers are at the front lines, and are the face of education to most people. It’s important to look beneath the surface and realize that teachers are victims of flawed education reform just as much as children are. Many decisions that appear to be made by teachers actually go far beyond the classroom level.

Teachers and students are interconnected. A teacher’s work environment is a child’s learning environment. We cannot truly advocate for and support our children without advocating for and supporting their teachers.

This holiday season, give your child’s teacher(s) the gift of respect, and let politicians know you respect teachers too (see our national, state and district resources for contact information). They are struggling with the broken system and doing the best they can with the resources and structure they are given. They take their jobs seriously and want what is best for your child just as much as you do. Let them know that you trust their judgment and their expertise. Instead of judging teachers, talk to them about the challenges you know they face and ask how you can work with them to help your child succeed. In the end, we are all in this together. We will never take our public schools back without first supporting the people who are making them work.

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