They are the first responders: the ones who identify learning challenges, report signs of abuse, comfort and aid victims of real and imagined pain, laugh at corny jokes, and ooh and ahh over simple treasures like rocks discovered on the playground or stuffed toys hauled in for Show and Tell.
They are the during responders: the ones who gently guide you to seek order in chaos, learn from your mistakes, and embrace new adventures despite all that might be wrong in your world – and theirs.
They are the always responders: the ones who answer e-mails late at night and on weekends, show up for after-school activities to sit in the bleachers to cheer you on, attend graduations and lifetime celebrations because once you enter their hearts you never leave.
They are the best responders: the ones who give what each child needs, whenever they need it, for as long as they need it.
They are teachers. And during this Teacher Appreciation Week, 2021, the best way we can show our gratitude to them is to let them know that we will always take care of the people who have taken care of us. Stop giving them lip service and lukewarm cups of coffee. Give them better salaries, more staff members, more time to plan, and their choice of staff development. Pay and treat substitutes well so teachers can take time off to go to the doctor, appointments for their own children, or just deal with their own mental health. Stock their bathrooms with paper towels and toilet paper that’s softer than cardboard. Make sure their working environment is clean, safe, and has heat/ac as well as appropriate ventilation. Let them help choose how money for education should be spent and the policies that should be put in place. Stop treating them as disposable employees who should be grateful they have a job.
If this past year has shown us nothing else, it has shown us that we should be grateful for teachers, and our communities are completely broken without them. Thank teachers – but also ask them what they need. Give them mental and physical resources so they don’t have to deplete their own.