Teacher Appreciation Day

Jerry Becker sends out to math teachers his selection of articles and opinions of interest to the profession. I received through his good offices an article posted by Bill Henk on the Marquette Educator blog (May 9th, http://marquetteeducator.wordpress.com/) regretting that National Teacher Appreciation Day had not made much of a splash this year. Teachers deserve better. I couldn’t agree more, but submitted a comment that, if encouragements and kudos are deserved and needed, why don’t we teachers practice more of a culture of recognition among ourselves? I noted how seldom I had sent a note of appreciation to authors of articles in our professional journals or to colleagues whose presentation I had benefited from and used with my students. I contrasted that attitude to the culture that we see displayed by basketball players, where even a missed free throw may be met by an encouraging pat on the back.

Bill Henk, Dean of the College of Education, added his own comment to my comment on his post, and it deserves to be read. So, after a few lines of my own comment, here it is.

billhenk commented on What’s Wrong With Our National Teacher Appreciations?.

in response to Edric Cane:

I fully agree with Bill Henk in his comments on National Teacher Appreciation Day: “The teachers we know are smart, talented, dedicated, capable, passionate, caring, and hard-working educators.” But then, have we, teachers, told any one of them? Have we sent a two line e-mail in the past 10 years to a presenter at a […]

Hello Edric. Thanks for writing such a thoughtful response to my post about appreciating teachers. You’ve taken the conversation to another level with your ideas.

I actually read your response as soon as we received it, and was immediately impressed. But I have been so busy with gearing up for the end of the semester, including commencement ceremonies, that I haven’t had time until now to respond.

As someone who’s done a great deal of presenting and a fair amount of publishing in my career, I can tell you that I never tire of hearing that my work had value for someone — as information, as food for thought, and even for entertainment. It’s really not about ego gratification for me (my ego is plenty big as it is!), but rather just knowing that I’ve made some difference for others and that they appreciate it enough to make an acknowledgement. We humans need and deserve affirmation now and then, and it takes so little effort to provide it. I think you’re right that we take it for granted that others are doing it, that we’re too shy or fearful to make the comments, or that we’re just too self-absorbed to make the gesture.

This topic is a timely one for me in another respect. After our College of Education graduation event a few days ago, I was walking out of the venue with my cap and gown thrown over my shoulder in my carrying bag. I was exhausted because the dean has a very large speaking role in the ceremony, and frankly, it’s nerve-wracking because our audience now exceeds 1100 people. Anyway, a little girl, seemingly all by herself and maybe all of 10 years old or so, recognized me and tapped me on the shoulder to stop me. I was caught somewhat offguard, but swung around to give her my full attention. She then said, in a way that belied her years, “Excuse me. I just wanted to tell you that I thought you did a really great job today.” Wow, I didn’t see that coming.

Even so, I said to her “Thank you so much. You have no idea how much that means to me coming from you. You just made my day, and I hope that our paths cross again one day soon.”

Well, she lit up like a Christmas tree and walked back to her group. Her courage in capturing my attention had been rewarded so to speak. Most importantly, she felt good about validating someone else, a true gesture of humanity. And I can tell you that the exchange certainly felt rewarding to me, too.

Thanks also for the shout out to my former colleague, Jerry Becker. Jerry has been a truly extraordinary filter, conduit, and disseminator of valuable information to an enormous number of educators in the decade or so I’ve known him, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude.