There’s no doubt about it. As teachers, we’ve been through the wringer the last couple of years. (The pandemic has actually spanned three school years, which is both impossibly hard and easy to believe). And as COVID-19 has lingered, gratitude for teachers has diminished at a rapid rate. Once the heroes of March 2020, now we’re the scapegoats for seemingly every societal issue. And that’s on top of unprecedented behavioral issues, stress about our own health, and general pandemic exhaustion. We need real help, and we need it now, or students will be headed into empty classrooms sooner than you think.
So why is it that in schools across the country, what passes as “teacher appreciation” are pun-filled, high-fructose snack stations worthy of a five-year-old’s birthday party?
Spend any time on educator social media, and you’ll see what we mean. Principals and parent associations set up “Orange You Glad It’s Friday” displays with piles of Cheetos and tangerines. They pass out apples for perfect attendance—yes, for adults—and put gift bags in mailboxes saying “You Deserve a Payday.” Only, you guessed it—what’s inside isn’t piles of cash but a fifty-cent candy bar.
We get it. Budgets are tight, and school principals don’t control that.
Many of the principals we know desperately wish they could give their teachers instant $20,000 raises. And it’s the thought that counts. But why does the thought always seem to treat teachers like children, instead of the grown ups we are?
There are other, low-cost ways to say thank you that make a real difference to our working lives.
For example, giving back professional development time for planning and grading. Helping us to reinforce the boundaries that have become increasingly critical to our mental health. Honoring teachers’ requests for time off. All of these are concrete ways to tell us that you value our work and our worth. And we’d take any of them over another taco bar with a “Nacho Average Teacher” theme.
We’re not trying to be the fun police. Small tokens and snacks can put smiles on our faces.
But they can also be a shortcut to the kind of meaningful school cultures we all want to build. If the only incentive or thanks you offer involves a cheesy pun and processed sugar, it starts to look less like true gratitude and more like toxic positivity. And thanks, but we’ll pass.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think of the snack bars and teacher appreciation puns? Please share in the comments.
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