Did you know that this week is the official Teacher Appreciation Week? If you didn't I'm not surprised. I taught in Chicago Public Schools for four years before I learned that such a "holiday" existed.
In my fourth* year of teaching, I remember receiving a certificate from the then-CEO of schools Arne Duncan saying thanks. But every teacher in the building—in the entire district—got a certificate and the school clerk put ours in the staff mailboxes without any context to it being Teacher Appreciation Week. Some teachers tossed it immediately, but I held on to mine. I found it again a few years later amid a stack of papers in my basement office. Seeing the certificate took me back to that year, then I ripped it up and tossed it in the trash.
That year was the worst year of my teaching career. I felt betrayed by my administrators. I was lonely, too. My grade level cluster team was made up some of the coolest people you'd ever want to meet, but they were reluctant to join me in taking a stand for what was right for fear of losing their jobs. And I had the class from hell with no support. It took me three months to figure out how to manage 33 third graders who all seemed to hate each other.
Needless to say, I didn't feel appreciated. I almost quit teaching altogether.
Fast forward to this week: On Monday, the entire staff ate a homemade breakfast provided by the administrators. Our pancakes were cooked right there on a griddle in the teacher resource room. There was an egg casserole in a Pyrex dish, along with yogurt and granola, fresh-baked zucchini and carrot breads, fruit, coffee and hot chocolate with an optional whip cream topping.
On Tuesday, our staff feasted on a Mediterranean lunch that included falafels, chicken wrapped in flatbreads with tahini sauce, Greek salad, grilled vegetable kabobs, couscous, and an array of delectable cookies.
Today, teachers are told to expect a surprise on our desks when we arrive to work. (Turns out that it was a cool water bottle with the school name on it and the William Butler Yeats quote, "Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire."
On Thursday, the principal will bring in her personal masseuse. NO KIDDING. Every member of our staff can schedule a 10-minute massage in a quiet, darkened room with soothing music playing. We can also get coverage for our class, if our lunch or prep times are booked. And as an added bonus, a faithful supporter of our school will distribute goodie bags full of random but useful things (i.e. chocolate, deodorant, herbs and spices)
On Friday, the teacher massages will continue, but the day's new treat will be a visit from the Starfruit truck before our professional development session begins. We will go outside to make our own frozen yogurt treats with unlimited toppings!
Now that's celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week! And my principal does a variation of this every single year!
In fact, many parents at our school also join in the festivities by giving teachers flowers or gifts. Sometimes parents make dishes and ask that it be shared with the entire staff in our teacher resource room.
This week comes at a good time for me; my morale was sinking. You could probably tell from my post last week on why I hate lesson planning. It wasn't because I didn't feel appreciated; I was just plain old tired (and still am, quite honestly).
But the way my principal acknowledges Teacher Appreciation Week would make even the most burned out teacher perk up. She is always a supportive presence in the building but she uses this opportunity to "go all out." I think the memory of this week will carry me gracefully through the stress and chaos of closing another school year.
Administrators out there: I hope you were taking notes.
*Updates: Originally titled, "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Appreciated!"; it was my fourth year, not my third year of teaching