Tag Archives: Teacher Appreciation

Appreciating the Treasures of Teaching

This post is written by member Nicole Erb.

I am a reasonably organized person, but from the pile of boxes and binders of old teaching paraphernalia I’ve collected, you might never know it. These materials, many of which I shuffled across state lines and through multiple school districts, finally demanded my attention as my husband and I arranged our belongings after moving into a new house last month. On a cool spring afternoon, I commenced the bittersweet task of sorting through my classroom memories.

Amidst outdated student rosters, forgotten PD resources, and neglected lessons, an unexpected treasure waited to be rediscovered. As I glanced at the next sheet to be filed or discarded, the words at the top of the page transported me back to my first years of teaching. “Dear Ms. Shelpman, I would like to thank you for all that you have done for me,” the letter began, and I read the rest of the letter slowly, savoring the words from a favorite former student.

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Though this young woman had never officially been in my class, as an actress in the musicals I choreographed and as a participant in the ballroom club I started, she was still my student and appreciated me as an important mentor in her high school education. I remembered receiving this letter in the last week of her junior year, days before I left my first teaching position to move across the country. This letter, along with a framed photo of the two of us, is one of the best teacher gifts I have ever received.

While I treasured her appreciation immensely at the time, revisiting this letter showed me how much more I needed these words now. As a district project associate, I do not currently have a classroom of my own, and I often reflect on my teaching years, considering what I would change and how I could have been a better educator. These reflections bring a mixture of both pride and discouragement; for every classroom success I remember, I cannot help but recall the students I know I did not reach. A particularly difficult end of my last school year had given my doubts and worries extra weight, but this letter provided a powerful reminder of why I became a teacher in the first place—to make a difference in my students’ lives. As I consider how to best serve students in the next stage of my career, I am grateful for the wonderful memories that this letter has rekindled.

During my first year of teaching, my colleagues advised me to make a “happy box” to save treasures like this gift. Though I failed to heed their advice at the time, the mementos I recently rediscovered now safely rest in a special place, and I echo my mentors’ message about the importance of protecting these treasures. The end of the school year, though exhilarating, can also be daunting, with reminders of shortcomings, of intentions never realized, of growing pressures for the next year.  I encourage educators to celebrate their successes by gathering, revisiting, and rediscovering the precious treasures that capture the joys of teaching.

My student left me with the following quote by Robert Frost: “There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can’t move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.” I know that this student has gone far since her high school days, and it is now my turn to thank her for everything she has done for me.

Nicole Erb is a district project associate for the Education Achievement Authority in Detroit. She previously taught in Indiana and Massachusetts, and she remains an English teacher at heart. Nicole has been an NCTE member since 2010. (linkedin.com/in/nicolemarieerb)

Listing the Difference

This post is written by member Donna Brown.

As educators, we are constantly being asked to do more and perform better.  These expectations are an energy drainer that leads us to question ourselves.  Why do we teach? Are we truly making a difference?  Do policymakers really have the best interests of educators and students? These questions and many more can lead us to a place of negative thinking. I often find myself falling into this rut from time to time. Meeno Rami suggests that we take stock of energy drainers and find ways to refuel ourselves as teachers.  We can choose our attitude and how we interact with others.  I realized that how I take in information and store it in my mind controls my attitude.

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A tip that has helped me when I get to feeling negative, drained, or overwhelmed is to make lists.  The lists are not just what I need to do, but what I have done.  There are so many things that we do as teachers automatically, but do not give ourselves credit for.  We always have our “To Do” list.  The “To Do” list for me was an energy drainer.  I found that I always created a list that contained many tasks that no one could really accomplish in one day.  In order to make it a positive experience, I started a list for “I did this today. . . . ”  At the end of each day, I would take a few minutes and reflect on where I made a difference.
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For example:

  • I recommended three books to a reluctant reader and he took one.
  • I helped a parent relax through an email.
  • I taught an awesome lesson using persuasive texts.
  • I discussed writing with 14 kids today.
  • I said encouraging words to a colleague who is struggling.
  • I walked away from a debate that could take away my energy.

I would then sit back and reflect on what I have done. My lists are a positive reminder that my work matters to many people and that I make a difference.

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The questions of valuing our work will always be here.  As educators, we know that many people do not understand the needs or realities of teaching.  Those who make the laws and influence some of our day-to-day work do not see the entire picture as passionately as we do. We cannot allow the perspective of others to cause us to lose hope educating the students we see each day.  Negativity is always present. This is part of the world we live in; however, we can structure our own day and choose to live positively, making a difference to future generations.

Donna Brown is a Humanities Instructional Coach in Clear Creek ISD located near Houston, Texas.  She supports ELA staff in elementary and secondary schools.  Donna also is the Technology Chairperson for Texas Teachers of ELA and offers professional development to schools on ELA, instructional coaching, and best instructional practices.  Twitter @DonnaBr105

Appreciating Teachers in Under-Privileged Schools

This post is written by member Sharonica Nelson. 

Teaching is a job that comes with very little thanks and accolades. In fact, teachers are some of the most overlooked and under-appreciated professionals. Teaching does not come with hefty compensation, nor does it come with many pats on the back. Truthfully, it is not for the faint at heart, and those who choose to teach are special people with special gifts. Therefore, national teacher appreciation week is fitting. Teachers deserve a time set aside just for them to be acknowledged and appreciated because of the hard work they do in classrooms daily. All teachers deserve this, but especially those who teach in under-privileged schools.

Teaching in less-affluent schools has its own set of challenges, issues, and concerns. Although all teachers are subject to changes in the form of new curriculum due to new pedagogical techniques, many times these changes do not reflect the impact on disadvantaged students.  These new initiatives stem from policy changes and legislative actions imposed by those who have no teaching experience. Often, students and teachers in under-privileged schools are the first to feel the brunt of educational disruptions and changes and the last to recover, particularly from new leaders who are eager to “turn the school around” and a high yearly turnover of new co-workers.

Many teachers in less-affluent schools have class sizes that are far larger than the average. Within these classes are double the number of students with behavioral inconsistencies, learning deficiencies, and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Yet, these teachers keep on teaching and making magic in the classroom by raising test scores, building relationships, and encouraging students to rise above their circumstances.

Just as they keep on teaching and making magic, teachers in under-privileged schools are also some of the most forgotten during teacher appreciation week. Many of their students do not have the financial resources to appreciate their teachers through gift giving and may not set aside time to make a gift or say a kind word. There are years when the administrative staff “forgot” to plan a gesture of appreciation for these teachers. Therefore, teachers must appreciate themselves:

  1. Be proud. Teachers must realize that they are not alone in the trenches and that together all teachers are making a difference. Continue meeting students at their point of need, and know that even if no one else recognizes it, you are making a difference in the lives of students that need it the most. Also, realize that you are doing a job that many would not think twice about doing, and with that comes honor.
  2. Show self-appreciation. If you do not appreciate yourself, who will? All teachers are valuable, needed, and special. The trip that you have put off, plan it. Have not been to dinner or lunch in a while? Plan it. If it is time for a haircut and/or color, make it extra special this time. The students will notice and will give compliments to no end. Massages are great. Find those discount websites that promote deals on massages and go have a day of relaxation.
  3. Show appreciation for a fellow teacher. No one knows the dynamics of teaching in an under-privileged setting like a fellow teacher. Giving to others brings the giver great joy. Therefore, show appreciation by giving to others who share a similar situation. It could be something as simple as lunch, flowers, a gift card, or even a hand-written note. The possibilities are endless, but the receiver will be surprised and thankful.

Teachers of students in less-affluent schools deserve to be acknowledged, patted on the back, and thanked several times over for the work done daily. These teachers show and prove every day that they are the epitome of special people with special gifts, and that they are not faint at heart. For these reasons, teachers in disadvantaged schools cannot be forgotten and should be shown much appreciation!

Dr. S. Nelson is a mommy, wife, and 7th grade Language Arts teacher in an urban middle school in Alabama. She works heavily with Red Mountain Writing Project at UAB in different aspects, and is the founder of College, Career & Beyond, a nonprofit whose mission is to educate all on the importance of education. She is also an author, presenter, and teacher consultant.

Teacher Appreciation Week

thank-a-teacherSince 1984, National PTA has designated one week in May as a special time to honor the men and women who lend their passion and skills to educating our children. This is a week for everyone to show teachers just how much they are appreciated!

Here is an activity to do with students that celebrates teachers:

Read a book about a teacher such as Thank You, Mr. Falker, Miss Nelson is Missing, The Miracle Worker, Tuesdays with Morrie, or A Lesson Before Dying. Why are the teachers in these stories special? Have a class discussion about some of your students’ favorite teachers. Then have students try these follow-up activities:

  • Compare a favorite teacher to a teacher from a book with a Venn Diagram.
  • Write a letter to a favorite teacher using the Letter Generator.
  • Create a character map of a storybook teacher with the Story Mapping tool.
  • Use the Word Mover to create a piece that describes the teacher or school.

To round out Teacher Appreciation Week, watch a movie that inspires you and makes you feel proud to be in the field of education where YOU really do have an impact. Enjoy!

What Great Teaching Looks Like

This post is written by author, Martha Brockenbrough

MarthaBrockenbroughI don’t envy teachers these days. You know what you’re up against—I don’t need to tell you.

But what I can tell you, as a writer, a parent, and a former teacher, is this: The things that drew you to the profession are still the truth about why teaching matters. You are a teacher because you love and value children and because you believe that caring about them is the best way to help shepherd them into a hard-edged world.

Given the importance of this quest, the long shadow cast by standardized tests is more than ridiculous. It’s an outrage. No child is motivated—except in the most transient, soul-damaging ways—by standardized tests.

So what does work with children, especially when it comes to reading and writing? That thing you already know how to do. That thing that drew you to the classroom in the first place. That thing that means you will never forget the best teachers you ever had.

It’s love.

And this is what it looks like.

It looks like Mrs. Cleveland, my third-grade teacher, who knew I needed something to get through the math that scared me. She planted a branch in the corner of the classroom and called it a tree, and she hung strips of paper on its twigs, each of which contained a word. When I was done with my math, she let me pick a word and use it to start a story. And she read every one of those stories and told me I was a writer.

It looks like Ms. Adams, who understood why I never had money for books from the Scholastic catalog, and sometimes bought books for me with her own money.

It looks like Mr. King, who had us write down the titles of the books we read, who never questioned our choices, who simply encouraged us for reading.

It looks like Mr. Bayley, who read to us for 10 minutes every day even though we were old enough to read to ourselves.

It looks like Tom and Mike, who weren’t even officially teachers—but who were coaches who knew I wrote stories and volunteered to read them, even though they weren’t any good.

Love also looks like teachers I observe today, including Mr. Hankins and TJ Shay, making sure students are reading strong, contemporary books that help them feel what it means to be a human being. And it looks like librarians Andria Amaral and Shauna Yusko, who literally keep their students fed, because no one can learn on an empty stomach.
This is more important than using reading as proof of achievement or intellectual prowess. Books are a safe space for us to practice being people, for us to understand the complexity of our own thoughts and feelings and the reality of the complexity of others in our lives.

Great teachers keep that safe space intact and honor it. Great teachers know that the act of protecting the curiosity and individuality of our students is powerful fuel. Kids who are secure and loved as learners have everything they need to perform at their highest levels on standardized tests.

They don’t need to be taught to perform to them. They simply need to be shown that unfolding themselves as they are—with courage and hunger and resilience, with self-respect and respect for others—is everything they need to succeed in this world.

How does love look in your classroom or library? Like games? Letters to future selves? Stories? Snacks? I’d love to know.

Meanwhile, thank you for what you do. I am a writer today because of the teachers who loved me. There is a test that measures that: life itself. I owe my happy and productive one in no small part to them, and to people like you.

Martha Brockenbrough is the author of The Game of Love and Death, a Kirkus Prize finalist, winner of the Pacific Northwest Book Award, and Publishers Weekly Top 10 book for teens in 2015. She has written several books for young readers and has worked as a teacher, journalist and editor. The founder of National Grammar Day, she’s written game questions for Cranium and Trivial Pursuit. She’s spoken twice at NCTE and looks forward to spending more time with an inspiring group of teachers.