This post was contributed by a WeAreTeachers community member who wishes to remain anonymous.
The last time Teacher Appreciation Week felt genuine to me was in 2020. That spring, we were heroes. Remember?
Now, teachers are leaving the classroom in record numbers.
Many schools and districts are silencing their teachers, like this one in Southlake, Texas who asked their teachers to sign non-disparagement agreements (Note: this is the same district in which an administrator advised teachers to balance books about the Holocaust with “opposing perspectives”.)
Parents—fueled by a wide range of fears—are losing it.
School board meetings have turned childish, heated, and in some cases, violent.
Forgive me if this Teacher Appreciation Week feels… off.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m grateful to feel valued. Whether it’s a thoughtful note or a teacher discount, I’m touched when a student or parent or community member extends their thanks. But remember that it’s possible to hold two thoughts at once. I can feel gratitude for parent and community support this week and, at the same time, feel like I’m watching our nation’s most honorable institution crumble. When you and every teacher you know are struggling to make it through the toughest school year you can remember and you’re not allowed to speak about it, Teacher Appreciation Week feels a bit like paramedics showing up with a bouquet of flowers when you’ve been disemboweled.
We are bleeding out.
What I have to remind myself to make it through this school year is that, according to a 2021 Gallup poll, 73% of parents of school-age children are happy with the education their child is receiving. The people creating and maintaining this mess are a small percentage of unhappy parents or people who manage to have strong opinions about public schools while not actually being connected to them (impressive, by the way).
Most of our community members are not demonizing teachers.
Most of our community members are not threatening school board members.
Most of our community members are not so fragile to have their moral foundations shaken by the existence of books in libraries.
But that won’t matter if most of them stay silent.
This Teacher Appreciation Week, ask the people in your life to show up and speak up.
If you care about teachers, show up to your next school board meeting and say so. Show up and speak up at PTA meetings. Engage with your friends and loved ones when you hear them disparage teachers or spread misinformation. Organize and be a voice for us when we’re not allowed to speak for ourselves. (I can’t even publish this piece under my real name.)
But most importantly, vote at every level—from school boards to the presidency—for leaders whose visions about school put teachers at the center of conversations on how to improve school.
This is how you support us.
And if you’re one of the people vilifying teachers on social media, the school board, from the pulpit of your church, or under the false banner of “advocacy” for students, don’t bother showing up with a decorative mug this week. I have plenty.
We’d love to hear your thoughts—what do you think of Teacher Appreciation Week this year? Please share in the comments.
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