By Ronnie Eyre
Teacher appreciation week approached us so quickly. March felt like the longest month of the year, and then April came and teachers and students alike were told to start distance learning. These teachers and kids showed up! They proved that they were able to handle working on their academics while still being kids. Teachers made changes to their lessons by creating their own document cameras. They created spaces in their homes for anchor charts and bulletin boards. Teachers pushed themselves harder than they ever have, recognizing that an education is so important and that it must continue even through distance learning, online video chats, and tons of emails.
As a teacher myself, I have been working so hard to make sure that my students are still getting an education. The hours are incredibly long, the days are even longer. I constantly feel that I am putting little fires out all day long. I am fielding emails from parents, from kids, and tons of emails from Google notifications. On top of that, we need to collect grades for each assignment. This really has not been a walk in the park and as a parent…it is even harder!
My son is in Pre-K, and while there are days when I feel like an A+ mom, there are others when I feel like a C-. In between teaching my own students, I am working with my son. At his age, his brain is like a sponge, and so I feel it is important to make sure he is continuing to learn and grow, even during these exceptional times! His teacher has provided us with tasks like coloring a sight word, reading a book aloud, or even practicing writing his name. Once we have finished working, I am back to my computer and working with my students.
Working so closely with my son on these tasks has given me a renewed sense of appreciation for his teacher. She has done a fantastic job teaching him the basics of writing his letters, knowing his numbers, and learning how to add! But even more importantly, my son’s teacher has instilled in him a love of learning, and has taught him to embrace mistakes as opportunities to learn. As we moved to distance learning, she has kept up her support and interest in my son’s education. She gives him notes on his activities, asks to see his projects, and sends him messages and videos of her reading books aloud. Her love for him is evident in everything that she does.
As a parent, I am incredibly grateful for my child’s teacher, and am sure I am joined by parents everywhere who are experiencing renewed appreciation for those who educate their children. As an educator, I would like to provide advice on how parents can express this appreciation. Recently, feeling appreciated has come down to two simple words: thank you. This year, I encourage you to send a video to your child’s teacher with you and your child saying thank you. You can include why you’re thankful and remind them that they are doing a fantastic job. As a parent, I want to remind those of you who are parents that you are doing a fantastic job as well. Your child will still learn everything that they need because you are supporting them through this transition. Make sure you give yourself a thank you video as well, because you were your child’s first teacher.
Ronnie Eyre has been teaching for 10 years in South Florida. This will be her fifth year teaching fifth grade. When Ronnie is not teaching, she is creating curriculum for teachers in grades 3-5. Ronnie’s blog can be found at ATeachersWonderland.com.
Showing Teacher Appreciation through Connection
By Anne Childers
Teachers are always at risk of their emotional tanks running out, even without a pandemic. So now, with the challenges of distance learning, feeling appreciated is the fuel in the tank for the days, weeks, months, possibly even years ahead.
It is important to remember that teachers are feeling as isolated as their students right now. It is always the little things that make a difference in teachers’ and educators’ lives. In the classroom, one of these moments of connection could be the student who draws tic tac toe games on the board at recess and writes, “winner gets a hug.” It’s the parent who reports that their child, a reluctant reader, is absorbed in the articles I’ve printed and sent home, because we took the time to find articles about tiny purses and fashion.
At points in my career when I’ve worked in jobs outside of the classroom—nonprofit and district work—I’ve heard my colleagues talking about how they missed these little moments that only happen on school campuses. During this lockdown, I’m grateful for my students’ Zoom smiles, their digital art projects, and their diligence in this distance learning process, but nothing can replace the “Aha!” look on a student’s face when they reach a new understanding, or the smile when you say, “Yes, I’ll play tic tac toe with you.” Now, teaching remotely during the pandemic, I can’t get this same satisfaction no matter how far I lean into the computer and try to see them just a little bit closer. I smile when they chat things like “peeps need peeps,” or respond to an assignment with “hi,” but I miss that in-person connection.
The other day a parent sent me an image of her son with his dog. It wasn’t anything about school, she didn’t have any questions, she just sent me a picture of her son. We communicated frequently while school was open—she was the room parent, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary—but it just struck me as a real thank you. What I heard was, “I trust you miss my son too and you too are a person that misses the daily connection of colleagues and students.” Schools have a daily buzz for all involved, and for all involved it’s been too quiet. The picture of him made a little noise in my life, and struck me as so thoughtful.
I felt really appreciated through her reaching out for no reason other than to share, and as an educator, I encourage parents to think of doing the same during this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week. A simple note—whether an explicit “thank you,” a story or picture of your child, or just a check-in—will go a long way in making your child’s teacher feel appreciated. After all, it’s these small moments of connection that will get us through this difficult time.
Anne Childers is an experienced instructional designer and educator focused on integrating Social and Emotional Learning into school design and educator development. After years in nonprofit work, Anne recently returned to teaching to focus on supporting all learners’ social, emotional, and academic development. With an M.A. in Educational Technology Leadership, masters’ studies in New Media Design, and a B.A. in Journalism and Technical Communications, she brings digital production skills into designing systems that take an assets-based approach to teaching and learning. Anne is a national presenter focusing on whole-child data-driven teaching and learning and can be found at www.annechilders.com.