This Is How We Can Appreciate Our Teachers Everyday

Here are facts to share next time you hear someone say that teachers “have it easy,” are “overpaid,” or are “never fired.”

Imagine that you have just accepted a new job.

Tomorrow, 20-30 young children will arrive at your house around 7:30am.  Some of them will be calm and collected; others will be bouncing off the wall from a sugary breakfast; and some will not have eaten breakfast at all.  Some of them will be friends with each other and some of them will not like each other.  Some of them will speak like little geniuses and others will have trouble reading.

Your job is to plan a day of engaging activities that will keep this group of children happy and well-behaved.  You have the option to design the day however you want, but your performance will be judged by how well they do on a test at the end of the year.

You’ll repeat this task with some variation for almost every weekday over a nine month period.

We’ll give you a generous 20 minute lunch break every day, and you can work from home in the evenings to plan for the next day.  Your starting salary will be about $30,000 and over time you’ll make about 50% less than your peers who also graduated college but are working in other professions.

You are going to love these kids like crazy and put your heart and soul into this job.  You’re not in it for the money.  You’re in it for the looks on their faces when they finally understand something new, for the joy of seeing them build their self-esteem, and for the impact you’ll have on their future and in turn the rest of the world’s future.  Just the little things, right?

Oh, and just so you know, a lot of the time you’re going to hear people say: “Gosh, I wish I had your job.  Only work part-time for 9 months and get my summers off!  Must be nice.”  

Interior of Elementary School Classroom

The first week in May is Teacher Appreciation Week.

If you didn’t get excited about the job offer I’ve just described, chances are you’re not a teacher.  And that’s ok.  Not everyone is built to be a teacher.  It takes a certain kind of person to spend day-in, day-out in a room full of kids.

It also takes a certain kind of person to take care of our kids in a system that is far from perfect and isn’t going to change overnight.  Those people deserve our appreciation.  Not just this week, but every week.

They deserve our appreciation even if they’re not perfect or they don’t always get it right.  [su_pullquote align=”right”]99% of teachers are in the classroom for the right reason; they care deeply about every kid who comes through the door and they are doing their very best to do right by each of them.[/su_pullquote]Because 99% of teachers are in the classroom for the right reason; they care deeply about every kid who comes through the door and they are doing their very best to do right by each of them.

This year, for teacher appreciation week, let’s take it outside of the classroom.  Sure, we should still do nice things for our teachers to show them personally how much we appreciate them (here are some ideas). But if we really want to make a difference in their lives, we need to do more.  We need to speak up loudly and clearly to defend teachers against those who criticize them based on inaccurate and unfair information.  

We can start by reading the National Education Association’s Myths and Facts about Educator Pay.  In addition to the salary statistics shared in our hypothetical job description, you’ll learn:

  • Annual pay for teachers has decreased “sharply” compared to other professions over the last 60 years
  • Most teachers work about 50 hours per week (not just the 6-8 hour school day for which they are contracted)
  • Most teachers spend the summer teaching summer classes or taking professional certification courses to keep up their license.
  • You’ll also learn that “tenure” does not equal “job for life” – it simply ensures that teachers can only be fired for just cause and have a right to due process before being fired.

Next time you hear someone say that teachers “have it easy” or are “overpaid” or are “never fired” you’ll have some facts to counter those arguments.

If we truly appreciate our teachers, we need to speak up when we hear people making these claims.  Whether we see these arguments in the comments section of a newspaper article or at a discussion for a town school budget vote, we can’t just silently disagree – we need to say something.  Write a letter to the editor, speak up in a public meeting, or write to your congressperson to advocate for legislation that supports teachers.

For Teacher Appreciation Week, and beyond, let’s give teachers the gift of our support and our voice, especially when times get tough.  Because that’s an easy thing for us to do compared to what they do every day for our kids and our communities.

“You think it can’t happen here. Let me tell you a story about ‘here’.”

“R U OK?,” he asked. “I love U guys,” 16-year-old Emily messaged back. That was the last time her parents would hear from her.

“R U OK?,” he asked.

“I love U guys,” 16-year-old Emily messaged back. That was the last time her parents would hear from her.

Emily Keyes was shot and killed by a rogue gunman who took hostages at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado in September 2006.

Last night I went to a neighborhood elementary school to listen to a keynote presentation on school safety from John-Michael Keyes, Emily’s father, now executive director of the I Love U Guys Foundation.

John-Michael’s story is tragic. There wasn’t a dry eye in that small school library as he talked about his beautiful daughter and how her life was taken that fateful day.

I suppose it’s a coincidence this keynote happened the same week Sue Klebold’s story made international headlines.

Sue is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters who murdered 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in 1999. It’s not often you hear the perspective of a parent of a shooter and Sue Klebold’s story is equally as tragic for so many different reasons.

Having heard Sue’s interview on NPR just two nights earlier, while I was listening to John-Michael’s story I couldn’t help but realize the paradox.

What John-Michael Keyes and his wife, Ellen, have done since Emily’s death is truly remarkable. Using the I Love You Guys Foundation, John-Michael has created and published the Standard Response Protocol.

The SRP defines an action-based uniform response to all types of incidents from school shootings to weather events. It has been adopted by 17,000 schools nationwide including our own Boulder Valley School District. John-Michael’s work has unequivocally made thousands of schools and millions of students safer, period. Why is no one talking about this?

“You think it can’t happen here. Let me tell you a story about ‘here’.” — John-Michael Keyes

John-Michael opened his presentation by saying “You think it can’t happen here. Let me tell you a story about ‘here’.” The small town of Bailey in the foothills outside of Denver is “more of a concept than a town”.

With a population of only 17,000, no one imagined a school shooting would’ve ever happened in Bailey.

No one wants to talk about school shootings. No one wants to take away the assault rifles. No one wants to take action to prevent these preventable events.

Last fall, at school orientation for my kindergarten son, the administrators and teachers talked about the Common Core curriculum, what field trips they’ll take during the year, what the average day looks like, but not a word was spoken about school safety or the SRP. 

As parents, we’re trusting these administrators and teachers with not only the academic foundation but also the physical well-being of our children. How can we be comforted in knowing the classroom teacher will do what needs to be done when crisis strikes?

“We practiced hiding our in class today, in case a wild animal gets out of the zoo”

The first indication our school was actively preparing today’s youth — including my 6-year-old son—for the possibility of a school lockdown was the day my son came home and talked about their “hiding practice.”

A key part of the SRP is to use age-appropriate direct and honest communication about what’s going on. Practicing locking doors, turning lights out and hiding in silence in the corner of the room in case a wild animal escapes from the zoo is how you do that with kindergarteners.

I’m new to this “having kids in school” thing. Like all of us parents, I want to know my kids are safe from the unthinkable. I want to believe it can’t happen here but I know we simply can’t stick our heads in the sand.

We have to be strong, confront this and plan for what sometimes feels like an eventuality. I want to know what my school and district are doing to keep kids safe and adapt to the ever-changing safety landscape.

We all teach our kids about the danger of fire. Evacuate. Drop and crawl. 

We are not teaching our kids what to do when they come under fire.

Teaching Bystander Empathy is Most Effective Anti-Bullying Program

Study shows that if we want to effectively reduce bullying, we need to teach the bystanders to be empathetic.

The statistics are deeply concerning: one out of every four students reports being bullied at school, and the majority of students who experience bullying never report it at all.

Bullied students are at higher risk for depression and anxiety, substance abuse, violent behavior, and poor physical health. (Pacer.org)

And yet, school-based, zero-tolerance, anti-bullying programs — largely focused on victim self-reporting and bully self-restraint — have been rendered mostly ineffective.

But we can’t afford inefficacy.

So, what will work?

Research says: empathy.

A UCLA-led study of more than 7,000 students in 77 elementary schools found that an empathy-building, anti-bullying program called KiVa has been more significantly effective than most school-based efforts.

According to Science Daily, the KiVa program uses role-playing and computer simulations to increase empathy among students, encouraging them to think about how they would intervene to help stop a bullying situation.

Jaana Juvonen, lead author of the study and professor of psychology at UCLA, explains that the program improves students’ overall perceptions of their school environment, as well as the mental health of those most often victimized by bullying.

The KiVa program is being evaluated for use in the U.S., where zero-tolerance programs are the most common school-based effort.

Juvonen told Science Daily that she does not support zero-tolerance programs as they’re punitive and do little to teach kids about empathy, whereas KiVa is effective in leading students to be kinder to one another.

In other words, an empathy-based program can help keep all of our kids safe, and maybe even make the world a better place.

Source: Science Daily