Sunday, May 8, 2022

Depreciation Week


So. Teacher Appreciation week has come and gone. How did you celebrate?

Telling early childhood educators to practice “self-care” w/out giving them what they’ve asked for (like planning time, wellness & PD days, compensation & benefits, autonomy & respect) is gaslighting. Ain’t no amount of candles & tea will do what policies & public money ought to do.
(Marica Cox Mitchell)

This doesn’t apply only to early childhood educators, of course. 

If we ask teachers what would make them feel appreciated, these are very likely on their list:
  • planning time
  • wellness & profession development days
  • compensation & benefits
  • autonomy & respect
Well, possibly not the professional development days, unless teachers are allowed the autonomy and respect to choose valuable and relevant PD experiences. Trust me on this one.

Despite teachers being pretty consistent in what means most to them, the response of most communities doesn’t look anything like this. This is widely known and expected. Teachers have the capacity to enjoy and be grateful for any card, special breakfast, or celebratory gift from individual parents or that the PTA organizes. 

They’re flexible that way. 

What has pushed teachers to the absolute end of their flexibility is increasing work demands, lack of adequate school funding, plus wave after wave of anti-teacher sentiment. The anger aimed at teachers while they managed online learning was demoralizing. Now they’re under attack from conservative groups for things they do not do: teach critical race theory, for instance, or “groom” children to become LGBTQ+. 

It almost seems as though Teacher’s Appreciation week has devolved into a kind of Depreciation Week: an annual accounting of how our society values teachers less and less and how that is breaking down and damaging their ability to teach. To be clear, the teachers themselves don’t have any less value. But the insults, accusations, and harassment contribute to significant wear and tear.

If we as community members want to take part in making this better, it will take activism and informed voting. Pay attention to the Board of Education race. Listen to each candidate carefully. Donuts and coffee and gift cards are nice, and, as a teacher, I have been mightily grateful for all of them. Informed voters who support education and teachers are the biggest gift of all.

As always, there’s no underestimating the importance of a heartfelt note of gratitude. I shared this in an online group this week in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week:

As I watch my daughter navigate college with increasing confidence, I often feel such gratitude for the hcpss teachers who supported her, believed in her, and challenged her over the years. Thank you, all teachers, for being “that person” for our kids!

The depreciation of teachers in our culture contributes to a devaluing of education and children. We need to to make some long-term investments now.


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