“Teacher Appreciation Week” is frankly one of the most troubling weeks of the annual academic calendar. I realize that sounds a bit cynical so let me explain. It simply smacks of a culture needing to be reminded to do something it should be doing all the time. Truth be told, my wife and I don’t really make a big deal of out of Valentine’s Day either. We figure if we need a day to remind us to be attentive and thankful toward one another, we’ve got bigger issues.
I think Teacher Appreciation Week has its place as long as we’re targeting the right audiences. If it’s there to prompt parents and students to pause for a moment, write a card, and maybe get a Starbucks gift card, then great. But if schools actually need to be prompted to “appreciate teachers” during this week, then we’ve got some problems. Schools need to be in the business of appreciating teachers in ways that go far beyond that of the Hallmark variety.
In a school, “appreciation” looks like this:
- Ongoing teacher input and influence in important matters affecting teaching and learning
- Meaningful professional development that is teacher-led and teacher-focused
- Adequate resources to effectively accomplish school-wide and classroom goals
- Thoughtful use of everyone’s time
- Timely and effective communication
The list could go on and on. The reality is this: “Teacher Appreciation Week” types of appreciation are easy. True appreciation is hard work. It’s transformational work. It’s daily work. And too few schools work with that in mind.
Inwood Academy is a school that takes this conversation seriously. We want to be a great place to work. When you come to teach here, we’re going to work hard to keep you. We want to stoke your fire, not burn you out. But this serious work does not mean that we’ve got it all figured out. We don’t. But we’re honest enough to say it and keep working at it. We’re always looking at ways to improve decision-making and communication. We seek ways to build a robust adult culture in order to create a rich student culture. It is a work in progress.
The key to this is the word “work.” It’s a commitment that we make to educators. All schools need to make this commitment. We’re proud of the work we’ve done to date in this arena and we’re even more excited about the joyful labor that is to come. We’re serious about making work work for our people and ensuring that appreciation isn’t an annual event but a daily reality.
By Nathan Eklund, firstname.lastname@example.org, @nateek