Have you ever thought about Teacher Appreciation Week? When did it start? Who initiated it? What does it mean? Your school district likely follows countrywide norms and honors its teachers during the first full week of May, with National Teacher Day on Tuesday of that week.
History of the Event
Discussions about recognizing the important work that teachers do began in 1944. The 81st Congress proclaimed National Teacher’s Day in 1953 at the behest of Eleanor Roosevelt. Officially, the first National Teacher Day was established on March 7, 1980, and the first Tuesday in March was set aside to acknowledge educators for their efforts. In 1985, the National PTA initiated Teacher Appreciation Week in May, with the NEA voting to make Tuesday of that week National Teacher Day.
What happens during Teacher Appreciation Week?
Many retailers, restaurants, and other establishments offer discounts and free goodies to teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week. Generally, you must show your ID to qualify. Local PTA organizations often spearhead specific activities in their schools for teachers that may include gift-giving, a celebratory luncheon, or another special event to recognize the staff.
Many local groups within individual schools create their own “Thank a Teacher” GoFundMe operations where donations match campaigns that directly benefit teachers.
Is it a good or a bad thing?
There is surprisingly quite a bit of controversy regarding Teacher Appreciation Week. While a time set aside to honor educators for our often challenging and time-consuming work with children and young adults should be cherished – and is, by numerous teachers – others disagree.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with a free meal, a discount at a favorite store, or a heartfelt surprise from a student during Teacher Appreciation Week, but many teachers aren’t interested in being “buttered-up” once a year. Instead, they want to be respected for what they do, have enough funding to educate students with the most up-to-date technology and other educational materials, have fair evaluation standards and job protection, compensation worthy of the profession, and a voice to help make policies that support teachers and the families of the children they teach.
Teacher shortages are more common than ever, and teacher morale has continued to drop. Although teachers appreciate what parents do for us during this week, what we really want is to be trusted and respected as professionals in the educational field. Allowing us to have autonomy in the classroom and letting us influence policies that affect us directly would go a long way in bringing more teachers into the profession and boosting spirits. The students will be the real beneficiaries.
Of course, we love hearing “thank you for what you do,” and receiving tokens of gratitude during Teacher Appreciation Week. Hopefully, these positive feelings can be extended throughout the entire year.