“When you see people that lived their purpose and sacrificed, who are everyday people—teachers, sanitation workers, and just people from all walks of life—that said, ‘I'm standing up for what I believe in. I'm standing up for my community.’ That reaffirms what you can do.”
I’m writing this on National Teacher Appreciation Day.
I hope you’ve been showered with messages of love and respect from students, families and colleagues.
Sadly, though, a hand-written thank-you note or social media shoutout doesn’t pay the bills, can’t ensure you have adequate classroom supplies, and fails to provide the support resources our students need.
So, as this school year ends, I’m also hopeful that the wave of teacher protests and walkouts around the nation yield results. Because our problem isn’t simply that teachers aren’t appreciated. It’s that we don’t know how to calculate the value of public education to our society. As a result, we’re neglecting and depreciating the best thing this country ever built: free, universal public education.
I’m tired as I’m writing this. It’s my last day in the office before I take a long-awaited vacation. I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks of travel to refresh my spirit and renew my energy. I’m guessing that I’m feeling a lot like most educators do right now: exhausted, tapped out and ready for the school year to end.
Because, as school years go, this has been a tough one.
- Kids from immigrant families have seen their worst fears—that their parents will be taken away—materialize. They’re missing school and, when they do come, they carry more anxiety than any child should. You know that because you’re supporting them in every way you can.
- Some policy makers have finally begun to realize that the opioid epidemic is not simply a public health problem but also “an education and child welfare issue,” as TT Senior Writer Cory Collins explains in “The Opioid Crisis.” But you probably already knew that.
- You might get killed in a school shooting, be expected to give your life to save the life of a student or even be asked to carry firearms while explaining noun-verb agreement. You’ve practiced the active shooter drills and know how to secure your classroom.
- Students are experiencing alarmingly high rates of depression and self-harm—and many of them don’t have access to the mental health services they need. As an educator, you’re in the role of not only coach, mentor and guide, but you also have to know when to pinch hit as social worker or counselor.
The list, as they say, goes on. At this point, I should probably pivot to the bright side and point out that teaching is still a remarkably rewarding profession.
But you know that too.
As summer begins for many of you, we here at Teaching Tolerance hope you have a chance to recharge, refresh your spirit and think about how, when school begins again, you’ll be ready.
We appreciate you. We hope you know that.