Teacher Appreciation Week Starts Today!

May 4, 2020 by

Today is the start of Teacher Appreciation Week!  From May 4th until the the 8th, educators get to bask in the sun of high esteem.  Numerous blog posts and newspaper opinion pieces will tout our work in often saccharine and condescending tones.

Almost every category of employment gets a week of special recognition. The problem is there are more classifications of wage slaves than there are  weeks on the calendar.

Manufacturers of self-sealing envelopes, formaldehyde distributors, pewter artisans and publicists for turnip-growers are honored in due course as well.

Does that mean that we have an annual 5-day reservation to be included in the public’s “thoughts and prayers” and be thanked “for our service”?  How is this week different from all others?  Instead of having stale cliches, for the most part we still get we get insipid platitudes. 

Six of one. Half a dozen of the other.

What is this approbation worth?    What do these faint hymns of praise count for?

The pandemic has had a big effect, for better or worse, on the way the general public views educators.

Touching tributes to teachers and paraprofessionals who have knowingly risked and sometimes sacrificed their lives get spots on the low-rated air-waves.

But I think much of the latest expressions of deference are sincere, because from having to “home-school” under the watchful eye and guiding hands of educators, many parents have discovered first-hand how difficult and varied are the challenges of teaching. 

More of the public, which can be a finicky crowd,  seems to be noting the extraordinary lengths to which educators are going to get themselves up-to-speed with technology and to creatively implement lessons and interactions by means of the latest software.

But in past years, Teacher Appreciation Week did not spur much more than lip-service testimonials to the profession. Perhaps the pandemic will succeed where knee-jerk encomiums failed?

In recent months there seems to have been an informal, perhaps an accidental moratorium on sordid tales about teacher greed, ineptitude, laziness, malfeasance and malingering.  Except for the tabloid die-hard antagonists of public education and teacher unions, such as the New York Post, there have been, since the pandemic, fewer fables about sleazy liaisons, work-to-rule pettiness, opt-outs, walk-outs, aversion to accountability and selfish abrogation of duty.

Of course this is subject to change. If teachers refuse to return to buildings before they are proven safe by objective independent scientific verification, it may re-infect some elements of the public with teacher-phobia.

A New York Post editorial (“An Obscene Excuse”, May, 2) accuses the United Federation of Teachers, in cahoots with the Department of Education, of “giving up on teaching.”  They blame “union rules”.  If the Covid-19 virus mutates, they’ll blame that on union rules as well.

During Teacher Appreciation Week will there be some pause in the demonizing of public schools generally? If so, will it be attributable to an admission of the heroic work dome under difficult conditions, or will the absence of anti-teacher articles be simply a reflection of there being no more room in the inns of slander because they have all been taken by virus coverage?

There’s cause for optimism.

Polls reflect the high-level of confidence that the public generally has in public schools and teacher unions. The overwhelming majority have greater faith in teacher unions than in the US. DOE headed by their harsh critic Betsy DeVos, and they feel that educators are underpaid and have the right to strike.

Teachers, like any other group, are a “mixed bag”, but they have been uniquely targeted for ruthless and undeserved collective criticism. Perhaps that is in part because they are the foremost bastions of unionism in the nation today.

Many adults recall one particular weak-link in their schooling and blame that educator for their own failures. Most of us outgrow it. But there remain many defamers of public schools for whom the truth is a lost cause. Fortunately the image and fortune of the profession does not hinge on their ignorance and ill-will.

Being a classroom teacher ( as opposed to some policy-making bureaucrat ) entails more than the transference of subject matter. They are surrogate parents, child advocates, social service coordinators and spiritual advisors.

Seeing their diligence, idealism and self-sacrifice reflected in the esteem in which they are held by the general public, is exhilarating proof that Teacher Appreciation Week is more than an empty gesture.

Or should be.

Ron Isaac

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.