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May 16, 2019

How to Honor the Most Underappreciated—yet Most Impactful—People in our Lives.

 

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If you can read this, thank a teacher, as the bumper sticker says, and I mean this literally.

Last week was Teacher Appreciation week. I have a daughter in the second grade, and each day the children did something special for their teacher. As a teacher myself (I teach college composition), Teacher Appreciation really got me thinking.

We have an everything appreciation week and a national day for anything you can think of, from Lost Sock Day to Coconut Cream Pie Day (both of those are this week, by the way). There are so many days and weeks honoring nonsense (I see you, May 13th—National Crouton Day) that the significance of a special week can diminish.

Teacher Appreciation is important, and it should be every week. Not only that, we must recognize and honor all teachers. Our education doesn’t stop after high school or college. We interact with many teachers throughout our entire lives, and all of them are significant and worthy of respect and reverence.

Good teachers are the foundation of a healthy, functioning, free-thinking society. Without them, none of us would know how to read, write, tell time, measure, balance our checkbooks, think critically, and the list goes on.

Teachers do much more than teach basic skills. We take care of our students. We provide food, first-aid, and comfort. We give advice.

I teach young adults, and more times than I can even count, my students come to me with problems and concerns they’re scared to share with their parents. Every single teacher I know gives an enormous amount of their time, energy, and resources to their classes. We spend our own money on supplies and supplemental materials for our lessons, which means that we have less for things like haircuts, manicures, a cup of coffee, and other everyday luxuries that a lot of people take for granted.

I went a year without cutting my hair because I was too busy and wanted to save my funds.

Did I mention that we do all this work for very little money? Whenever I tell people how much money teachers make they’re honestly stunned. I’ll never forget the time when I divulged my salary to a friend in the medical field.

“Oh that’s not bad, because you get that every semester, right?” she said, clueless.

Umm, no. I’d just told her how much I make in an entire year.

“How can someone live on that?” she asked in horror.

My point exactly.

But the thing is, I’m not complaining. I love being a teacher and I wouldn’t want any other job. I can’t imagine doing something else, and my colleagues feel the same way. Teaching is more than a job—it’s a special calling. That’s just one of the reasons we must always make a point to mindfully share our gratitude with the teachers we know.

There are a lot of things you can do every week to show your support for teachers.

First and foremost, if you do nothing else, stop and take a moment to thank the teachers in your life.

Thank your child’s teacher if applicable. Make a social media post in appreciation for your friends and relatives who are educators. Share a positive story about how a teacher made a difference for you. Are you still in touch with any of your past teachers? Reach out and tell them how much they meant to you, in person, with an email, or a handwritten note.

Whenever someone takes a moment to share their appreciation for the work I do, I feel a sense of fulfillment and gratitude that is unmatched. My purpose and personal sacrifice is validated. Don’t discount the effect a few kind words can have on someone.

Thank all the teachers in your life. Do you have a special mentor? Yoga teachers, meditation teachers, your personal trainer, your knitting teacher—thank all of them profusely. They bring so much value to our lives and communities.

While gifts aren’t necessary at all, I don’t know a single teacher who would turn them down. It’s customary for children to bring small gifts to their teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week, but they are welcome any time.

Often the gifts are homemade, which we cherish, or a simple token of appreciation like candies or flowers. Yes, the stereotype is true—we also like apples! We don’t care. If you have more to spare and want to give something bigger, teachers love general gift cards that we can use to buy things for our classrooms. Gift cards to grocery stores or restaurants also help take the burden off of us. Again, gifts aren’t necessary.

One of the best ways to help us out is to buy us school supplies. Some teachers will provide a printout of items they need, and others will make online wish lists. We want to create lively, engaging activities to help our students learn and have fun, but sometimes the materials needed get expensive. If your teacher doesn’t have a list, ask them what they need and offer to help them get it.

Do you have extra office supplies, arts and crafts items lying around? Declutter and donate them to a teacher. We can always use those kinds of items and if we can’t, one of our colleagues probably can.

And remember, this doesn’t just apply to school teachers—your yoga teacher, art teacher, dance teacher may also need some help, but might be too shy to ask and would welcome your assistance.

Another great action we can all take is donate to charities that assist teachers. I love Donor Choose. Choose a classroom project from their list and help fund it! Teach for America, and Teachers Without Borders are also fantastic, and a quick google search will lead you to even more ways you can help us out.

Have a yoga or meditation practice? Send us good energy and happy thoughts. We need all the positive vibes we can get. Likewise, people of faith can say a prayer for teachers.

There are many things we can all do to show our gratitude for the educators in our lives. Taking time out to hold space for teachers lets us know the tough work we’ve chosen isn’t in vain and it energizes us to keep working hard at making the future a better place for everyone.

Thank you, with all my heart to every teacher I’ve ever had over the years, from my kindergarten teacher, to my college professors, to my art meditation teacher, and all my amazing yoga teachers. I am forever grateful for your guidance and expertise.

I may laugh at National Sea Monkey Day (May 16th), but I’ll always take Teacher Appreciation Week seriously. It made me stop and think about how important the many teachers we encounter throughout our lives are, and how much they need us to show our support.

It’s lovely that we have a special week for teachers, but we should mindfully appreciate and show gratitude to our teachers every week in whatever ways we can.

Without teachers, none of us would be where we are today.

~

author: Victoria Fedden

Image: @elephantjournal/instagram

Image: Good Will Hunting/IMDB

Editor: Naomi Boshari

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Victoria Fedden

Victoria Fedden is a writer and a mom from South Florida. Her memoir This is Not My Beautiful Life was published June 2016 by Picador USA. She teaches college writing, and blogs on her website. Her essays and articles have appeared in Real Simple, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Huffington Post, Redbook, Elephant Journal, Scary Mommy, Babble, and The South Florida Sun Sentinel, plus various other publications. Please visit her Facebook page for updates.