Happy Teacher Appreciation Day, America

Today is the teacher’s day, the hard-working educator’s day.  Moreover, it is a day of appreciation.  This differentiates it from many other “Days” that are labeled on our calendar with something other than their Gregorian-designated number. 

It is a good thing for society to remember a group of people often–though not always–under-paid, typically–with some exceptions–underfunded, and generally–if not in every case–hard-working individuals.  I have been the direct beneficiary of some truly fantastic teachers and come into contact with some brilliant minds in the classroom and alternative learning venues.  They really do deserve recognition.

On the other hand, there are some truly horrendous teachers out there.  It does the cause of educators no good to pretend otherwise.  These are those who lack more than just funding, they lack imagination, empathy or education–in some cases, they lack all of the above.  When parents complain, they are told we cannot fire Mr./Ms. So-and-so for x reason (he/she will sue is a common explanation given).  Inevitably, these teachers, too, will be appreciated, today, and get a raise for another year served in the school system–assuming the system has the funds for raises, of course.

Much still needs to happen in the school system–even calling it a system makes some part of me cringe–but there are earnest, intelligent, hard-working educators and youth leaders working towards precisely that.  Organizations that “get it” are developing aids and rewarding those teachers who also “get it.”

What are the characteristics of those who “get it?”  Well, some of the most importart are the recognition that the students–capable, competent, knowledgable citizens–are the end, not test scores; that the content is as important as the skills; that the school “system” is not intended to be a manufacturing plant rolling out copies on a conveyor belt; and, that real learning is not accomplished through an artificial segregation of subjects, but through a multi-disciplined platform that involves doing and reflection of successes and failures.  These are some of the characteristics.

So, remember to appreciate those teachers who “get it,” those who see school as a dynamic learning environment, not just part of a system–often they are fighting the system and your support is essential.  These people will cultivate students who are leaders, innovators, and contributing citizens–many of whom will not wait until the designated period when most adults decide they are allowed to be leaders.  At a time when we agree that America needs a few tweaks (or more than a few), we need the teachers who not confined to the box to help our students grow outside of their comforts zones.  Thank them and support them, often.

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