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How Appreciation for Teachers Grew During the Pandemic

Three young students give their teacher a bouquet of flowers.

If you're wondering how appreciation for teachers has increased over the past year, listen to what Shonda Rhimes has to say. The writer and producer spent a little over an hour doing schoolwork with her kids at home at the beginning of the pandemic before tweeting, "Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week."

This past year proved a few things: teachers are not babysitters, having gone to middle school doesn't mean you can teach middle school, and that teaching from home is not a cushy job.

Further Reading: What Are the Best (and Worst) Teacher Gifts to Give?

Any parent who sat next to their child during remote learning or hybrid sessions developed a greater appreciation not only for what teachers do, but for what they can't do when schools are not fully open. When connecting, counseling, coaching, advising, and planning activities return to schools, it will be teachers who make it all work.

Why Teacher Appreciation Continues to Grow

So what have teachers done to foster this growing appreciation for their work? Here are a few examples:

 

  1. Teachers remained flexible. Teachers learned a whole new way to deliver instruction. Kids struggled with remote learning and so did teachers. Parents often had to take a more active role in their child's education to keep them on track, but education continued.
  2. Teachers stayed connected with students and parents. Connecting with kids through a screen was tough, but many teachers developed ways to interact with students through break-out rooms and personal emails. Some teachers said they had more contact with parents during remote learning than they did with in-person classes.
  3. Teachers followed safety precautions. In the hybrid model, teachers worked to make sure safety protocols were maintained. Besides their teaching duties, they wiped down desks and cubbies, reminded kids to wear masks properly, and insisted on social distancing.
  4. Teachers kept students focused. Teachers working from home faced the same challenges as parents. Keeping kids engaged in remote learning is one thing; keeping them from disturbing a parent who is working from home is another thing entirely.

Appreciation for Teachers — Beyond the Classroom

When it comes to helping students succeed in and out of the classroom and introducing after-school activities that build the social fabric of a school, teachers go above and beyond.

Parents may recognize soccer or basketball coaches, but they likely did not think about who directs the play, who advises the French Club, who works with Model U.N., or who organizes the video game competition. Parents and students have developed a new appreciation for teachers who make all those extra things happen.

While parents looked forward to schools opening, the majority understood and respected teachers who insisted on school-wide safety protocols like air circulation that protected not only adults, but children as well. And most parents supported teachers and school employees moving closer to the front of the line for vaccines so that neither kids nor adults became sick or brought home sickness to their families.

When schools reopen completely, teachers will have the added responsibilities of helping kids catch up on work missed or not completed during remote learning. Some teachers will sign on for summer school or after-school tutoring to help kids prepare for next year. Some will redesign curriculum to ensure kids will have the basics.

Many children will look to teachers and counselors to help re-establish a sense of normalcy in their lives as well. Teachers will work hard to reconnect and communicate with their students not just academically, but emotionally. Advising and counseling are parts of the daily life of school that everyone looks forward to starting again.

How to Show Appreciation for Teachers

Some suggest that one of the best ways to show appreciation for teachers is to remember this past year's experience and build on it. Teacher appreciation could be "the fuel that will finally restore the prestige of the teaching profession and improve teachers' working conditions," writes Emma García of the Economic Policy Institute.

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) says that today's better understanding of the value of teachers should result in "rethinking the policies and practices that affect educators." Teachers should have a seat at the planning table when schools reopen because they know kids best and understand what they will need to succeed academically and emotionally, she says.

Both Garcia and Weber are among the many to point out that the community can best show appreciation for teachers by advocating for higher salaries. Maybe not $1 billion a week, but enough so that teachers don't have to take on a second job to survive.

Gretchen Weber, author of the AIR piece, remains optimistic.

Further Reading: Inspiration to Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week

"If ever there was a year to make Teacher Appreciation Week [May 3-7] the biggest celebration ever, this is the year," she says. "I don't even know where to begin to say my words of gratitude to my own children's teachers, my friends and colleagues, and all teachers across the country. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."