Teacher Appreciation Week is coming. I suppose we’ll get some sort of luncheon. Some parents will show up to take my recess duty, which I generally use to get caught up on some planning. The media will report some lame accolades for teachers from various leaders, many of whom spend the rest of their time trying to make our lives worse. Sometimes there’s a mug involved. The whole thing generally blows over uneventfully. It’s much more about the appreciators than the appreciatees.
What would real teacher appreciation look like?
Teachers are professional education experts. If one week a year, teachers could make that expertise known in tangible ways in the places that education policy is made, that would be real teacher appreciation.
Much policy discussion happens during school hours. The state legislature, and the state board of education meet while we are teaching children. Our state board of education makes momentous decisions with real impact on our work, things like adoption of Common Core State Standards and application for an NCLB waiver while we are busy actually doing the work. The legislature decides on issues like Fair Share and pension reform – during business hours
Yes, we have our union, and we have our paid lobbyists, and there are former teachers who represent us in these forums, but it is not the same as flooding these rooms with professionals whose situated expertise is essential to the implementation of successful policy.
The other night a colleague was noting the irony of a local board member testifying at the state house on a policy matter of interest to our union, and impossibility of our being there to counteract that testimony.
In my ideal world every teacher would have a paid floating Teacher Appreciation Week which they could use for leadership and advocacy at the local, state or national level. It could be used for policy or political work, but must be used for the purpose of bringing the professional voice of teachers to the broad decision making process.
There are those that would characterize this idea as just another benefit. But if one week of access, and the broad leadership development it could foster in the profession, makes the other 170+ student contact days more effective because of a combination of grounded policy and superior implementation, it seems to me to be a very small, but wise investment.
Driving leadership and policy work into after hours, when we are exhausted, when we are taking care of families and ourselves (and yes, planning and grading….) is a formula mass for detachment. Empowering people means creating the time and space for meaningful democratic engagement.
Unless you don’t believe in democracy…..
Creating the conditions for democratic engagement by education professionals – that would be real teacher appreciation.