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In Defense of Teacher Appreciation Week

posted Wednesday May 6th, 2015


The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and saw something that made the top of my head blow off.

It was a blog post entitled, Teacher Appreciation Week … Make It Staaaaahhhhhp!!

The author made it clear that she was not interested in dissenting opinions, so I kept quiet on her page. I like this woman. We have never met — as with many of my FB friends, we live in different states and have kids with Down syndrome in common. She is wise and funny and, to be honest, being friends with her on Facebook is like watching the Bravo channel in all the right ways. So I hope she doesn’t unfriend me after this.

But I’m willing to take the chance, because what she said really pissed me off.

I’m sure if this mom was here to defend herself she’d say she has nothing against teachers and everything against the tyrannical and annoying PTA systems that rule parents’ lives. I get that. Annabelle is almost 14 and I’ve never been to a PTA meeting, not once. Best decision I ever made. In fact, I kept my at-school involvement very limited from day one, keenly aware that I don’t typically play well with others.

I have always made an exception when it comes to Teacher Appreciation Week. It’s a simple concept that others like to complicate but the bottom line for me is that it’s a reminder to let our kids’ teachers — people who often spend more waking hours with our children than we do — know that we recognize their efforts. It’s also a chance to let our kids know that it’s important to say thank you.

And here let me say that while I’ve certainly been critical of some of my kids’ teachers and learning experiences over the years, there’s not a single teacher (well, okay, maybe one — and one principal) I am not eager to shower with gift cards and cookies. In many cases, a new car would not be enough. Charter, public, private, there’s so much debate and bad blood when it comes to education these days. But bottom line, what I see year after year is people willing to work insanely long hours for almost no pay to educate my not-always-easy-to-educate kids.

So no, I’m not going to pile on in a discussion about how shitty it is that the PTA is sending home Teacher Appreciation Week assignments. And if parents are competing to see who can be the nicest to the teacher,  I say good — let the coffee mugs and apples and spa gift certificates pile up on desks in schools across the nation.

The gifts don’t have to be expensive; flour, sugar, salt, eggs and butter for star-shaped sugar cookies cost me almost nothing but a couple late nights. None of this has to take the place of other forms of parental involvement (except, for me, PTA membership) and there’s no need to make a big deal out of it. It should be a no-brainer.

This year I didn’t receive word from either of the girls’ schools that the week was approaching (and that could well be my fault — the flyers might be lost in piles of fund raising appeals from the charter school and IEP notices from the other one) and frankly, for once I wouldn’t have minded an assignment. I Googled “when does teacher appreciation week start” last week and started preparing. I have two dozen people to thank at Sophie’s school alone, and at that I’m sure I’ll miss some. She was so excited that she insisted on writing the tags herself; I hope someone at school can help Sophie decipher her own handwriting when it comes time to hand out her gifts.

Just one more task for the educators.

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6 Responses to “In Defense of Teacher Appreciation Week”

  1. Thanks for your honesty, Amy. I admire you too much to unfriend you. I’m sorry you think I’m not open to dissenting opinions. I’m totally open to constructive debate.

    You’re right though, I will defend myself by saying that it’s not teachers I am against, it’s obnoxious, pushy room moms and PTA policies. There are teachers I would go to the ends of the earth for, to show my profound gratitude. And I have no problem with anyone else doing the same. But as parents, our relationships with our kids’ teachers are personal, and how we approach those relationships is our own business, in my book.

  2. I have avoided the online volunteer form that our PTA set up years ago. It makes it look like I don’t ever volunteer and totally don’t appreciate my kids’ teachers. I do appreciate most, but will probably wait until the end of the year to give them a parting gift for being amazing for my kids (I would like to give a couple a lump of coal).

    Amy, I go to most of the PTA and Site Council meetings and even served was treasurer of one and chair of the other. It’s volleyball games where I am realizing that I’m not allowed to talk to other moms. One I want to slash the tires of because she thinks its funny to tell me that she has to cheer for my kids when she does something good because I’m never paying attention. And then there was the mom I started talking to about school dress codes. That didn’t end well.

  3. bravo Amy . .thanks cost us absolutely nothing but they honor a group of people who willingly signed on for this gig . .to love , nurture and hopefully inspire our sons and daughters /. . I say they need and deserve our cheers. . sam

  4. I’m a high school teacher, and this week we’ve been showered with gifts from the parent club, the teachers association, and student government. I love that the student government kids personally deliver the gifts — a portable phone charger with our mascot on it among them! But the best thanks happen just like in life — spontaneously and/or out of the blue during any old week of the year. Once a former student contacted me as part of his 12-step amends-making . He did not time his recovery with TAW. Appreciation is always nice — to give and receive — but I do agree that the commodification of appreciation is a little bit like a Facebook birthday wish. I’d rather be honestly forgotten than remembered via bot prompt. Most kids (and parents) DO appreciate and value teachers in tangible ways. The problem is that American society as a whole does not — that TAW even exists proves that. No cookie or gift card can fill the hole left by years of professional disregard and Scott Walker-level contempt. Still, I’m not down with the tone of the “make it stop” blog post for lots of reasons that would only make me sound defensive. I trust that parent does some cause-oriented “appreciating” with her checkbook and the many good grassroots organizations working toward goals like fair testing and restorative justice practices in public schools. My boyfriend has a great saying: “Be a happy giver.”

  5. The #1 way parents show me their appreciation is by parenting. Thank you for loving and teaching your girls. You make an enormous difference in the lives of teachers by truly raising your kids.

  6. Thank you Trish — and Mike. “Be a happy giver.” The best.

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