Almost every adult can look back and smile at the memory of one or more teachers who made a big difference in their lives. Maybe it was taking a minute to listen, dry tears, or give wise advice. Maybe it was building confidence by clarifying a challenging problem or concept or praising an achievement or talent. Teachers shape the future and make memories in countless ways, and early May brings a special chance to recognize them.
Each year the National Education Association sponsors National Teacher Day during Teacher Appreciation Week (the first full week in May), and May 7 is the 2019 date. Teachers and their students comprised a huge percentage of the 327.2 million (per U.S. Census) U.S. population in 2018. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that last fall about 56.6 million students attended both public (50.7) and private (5.9) elementary and secondary schools, and public schools employed about 3.2 million FTE (full-time equivalent) teachers.
An increasing number of those teachers are experiencing pay freezes and cuts, along with larger classroom sizes and the need to buy classroom supplies out of their own pockets. That’s why this year the NEA is also promoting the “Wear #REDforED” social media campaign on May 8, the day after National Teacher Day. The NEA website says, “Show your solidarity with them [teachers] by wearing red…and sharing a picture of yourself on social media explaining why you’re wearing #REDforED.” Here are two examples they provide: “I’m wearing #REDforED to thank all those teachers spending their own money to supply their classrooms,” and “I’m wearing #REDforED because our public schools need to be fully funded.”
Thoughtful, educated citizens will steer tomorrow’s course, and a blog post from Insight Assessment, notes that “Good thinking is our strongest defense against ignorance and intolerance” and that “The most successful teachers are those who both nurture and challenge thinking.”
They do that amid many other tasks and requirements pulling on their time and attention, as well students who are never all in the same learning place at the same time. A document titled “Why Teachers Deserve Our Praise and Support,” available on the NEA website, notes one of many challenges teachers face, is that “Unlike other careers in which the same method can be applied time and time again, teaching requires an individualized approach as each student learns differently and has a different set of circumstances.”
Working together parents and teachers can help ensure that all kids, whatever their differences, reach their potential. In fact, the same NEA document quotes from the Journal of Human Resources: “…family engagement can raise student academic achievement so significantly that schools would need to spend an additional $1,000 per pupil to receive the same academic results.”
It also includes a list titled “How Can Families Effectively Partner with and Support Teachers?” with important reminders such as “develop a relationship with your child’s teacher and keep in touch with him/her often” and “frequently view the parent portal (or whichever tool your child’s school uses).”
Let your kids’ teachers know how much you value them during Teacher Appreciation Week and particularly on National Teacher Day. Jot them a note, help out in the classroom, go on a field trip, and/or buy them a small gift.
After all, long-time teacher Ivan Welton Fitzwater, before he died at 79 in 2010, penned a poem titled, “Only A Teacher?” that included a line true for every teacher on our beautiful planet: “The future of the world is in my classroom today.”