The end of the school year is approaching, and many are celebrating. The reality is, however, that the teachers who have made this wildly difficult season of education possible at all are underappreciated on an interpersonal level and a societal/structural level. Middle school English teacher Adrianna Moss-Shawver shares her ideas about how to support teachers.

While I myself feel appreciated, supported, and cared for at my school, I know this is unfortunately not the case for many of my peers across the nation. Over a year ago, most of us switched to a new mode of teaching rarely if ever used before. We reached out to provide not only an education but emotional and even financial support to families and students in the height of a deadly pandemic. We were regarded as heroes as parents learned a small scale of the pressure and problems we face daily. Celebrities, politicians, and community leaders were even tweeting out praise and calling for overall raises in teacher salaries. However, as August and September approached and school districts navigated the best learning options for students’ AND teachers’ safety & success, this tone quickly changed to one of condemnation and bitterness. Districts were pressured to return in-person, in some places with little to no safety plan or procedures to address COVID-19. We faced constant policy change from the top down, students switching in and out of in-person learning, and sickness and sadly death in some cases from COVID-19. While vaccinations are rolling out all over the country, there are still questions of what is to come next year in regards to the need for mask mandates, social distancing, and other procedures that have become the new normal. 

During Teacher Appreciation Week, myself and my peers have been shown a lot of appreciation through meals provided to us, free massages, emails, messages, verbal praise, & jeans days. I feel grateful to work where I do because I know there are some places doing very little to show their teachers love during that week. Moving forward, there are things I believe can be done year round outside of just that week to ensure feelings of appreciation and support are always felt. Overall, I would like to challenge schools/districts/governments to do the following three things to help with this:

  1. Provide candid and clear communication to teachers – This is something schools vary in degree in. Some schools are completely transparent with teachers and accept input from them regarding school procedures, schedules, etc., while others do everything behind closed doors and treat communication on a “need-to-know” basis. There needs to be a balance. It’s important that teachers are able to voice suggestions and concerns because we are most often affected by policies, procedures, and schedules. I am proud to be an educator, especially right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have questions and concerns. Having questions and concerns doesn’t mean I don’t respect my career or am ungrateful to my admin. It means that I respect my school, students, and admin enough to make sure everyone is heard and seen with any policy put in place. All schools should make this a priority. 
  2. Salary increases – This is the most discussed point when it comes to appreciating teachers and it is absolutely necessary. Many teachers, including myself, have had to work extra jobs to make ends meet. Our jobs are not simply 8-3. We complete many tasks outside of school hours. It is often hard for us to take a break from work once we are home because there is so much we have to do to be effective teachers every day. I have worked until 11pm at times not due to time mismanagement but simply because there is not enough time during the school day to get everything done. We’re not asking for 6 figures; we just want to be fairly compensated for ALL of our work, not just what is completed during school hours. 
  3. Praise and gratitude – this is really simple but makes a huge difference. On my hardest days, hearing positive feedback on my teaching or a thank you for helping out with something helped turn that day around. This is something admin, students, and parents can intentionally do that costs no money but makes all the difference. 

 

This year more than ever, teachers have sacrificed, adapted, & pursued quality education for all students. We love what we do, and at the same time we would love to be heard & valued all year, not just at the end of it.

Teachers deserve not only our love and appreciation, but our advocacy and support for structural change that honors them and the seen and unseen work they do. What will you do to celebrate the teachers in your life? How will you speak up alongside them?

Emmie Arnold

Emmie Arnold (she/her/hers) is a palliative care and intensive care hospital chaplain at a children’s hospital in New York; a candidate for ordination in the PC(USA); avid cook; traveler (on hiatus); friend and family member to many; writer; and musician.

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