I am literally crying in my classroom right now because I feel so unappreciated today, this #TeacherAppreciationDay 2018.
I have no tissues in my classroom to wipe my tears or clear my snot out because we ran out of our student-supplied tissues a few weeks ago. Every few days a kid remembers to bring some in, or I or my co-teacher remember to buy some and bring some in, but right now we’re out. Luckily my paraprofessional grabbed a pack of paper towels from the custodian before leaving, so there’s that.
I have no soap in the school to wash my hands with because we’re also out of student-provided soap- the bathrooms always run out of soap, both for the students and teachers, so it’s a daily practice that students have to bring their own soap in to use for the bathrooms. I and my co-teacher have been buying soap for our kids to wash their hands with but the bottle’s been lost somewhere in the school.
I’m not in the bathroom right now sobbing quietly because there’s only one women’s bathroom on the 3rd floor and there must be at least a hundred female staff members on this floor who all have to use this bathroom, when there’s less than ten total male staff members across two schools and they have the same amount of bathrooms as we do. Two women’s stalls for the whole 3rd floor. I also can’t trust that there’ll be toilet paper in the women’s bathroom because the bathrooms are so heavily used. Gender neutral staff bathrooms, anyone, for a profession dominated by women?
I’m writing a lesson right now with the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, a fun and interesting and deep set of lessons, ones to kick off our fantasy writing unit, a set of lessons I wouldn’t have felt full autonomy over had my observation cycle for my evaluation not concluded a few weeks ago. Just how much agency do we have as teachers?
My students are energetic as ever in May, and they’re having a lot of issues being kind to one another. They’re leaving for middle school next year, so it makes sense that they want to spend time with one another before we’re no longer together. A lot of kids feel these standards and work are too much and don’t see the point, and I try every day to make the content and learning accessible and meaningful. We just ended state testing last week, which felt torturous to a lot of our students- they said so! Every day I’m trying to create a community where the kids feel safe to learn, and that takes trying every day. One of my students was testing for her reading level with my co-teacher, reading a story about a family having a tough time. When my co-teacher asked the student how the lesson of the story could connect to her life, she burst into tears and ran out of the room because the story felt too close to home. I try not to bring my students home with me, because I deserve my own life, but of course I take my work home with me, and with that, all of their lives and stories. I’m glad for my insurance providing mental-health benefits, but oftentimes we take home too much.
I am going to have Chipotle tonight for dinner because it is “Buy One, Get One Free” tonight for teachers. I was going to be sad about going by myself and not knowing who I’d have the second Chipotle meal with, but then I remembered the field trip that we were going to have tomorrow got cancelled, and so now I’m going to bring that extra Chipotle meal with me to school. We were informed about the trip being cancelled about 12:30pm today, and when we had to tell our students the news they were rightfully disappointed and angry. Yeah, today of all days.
Every year on Teacher Appreciation Day, all six times I’ve experienced this day as a teacher, there has been some appreciation, some little gesture, toward us teachers, from our school leaders and/or PTA. (I know that I’m deeply appreciated by my students and their parents, by the way- we teachers are with them all year, after all, and that is never in question.) It didn’t matter how big the appreciation was, but it mattered that there was something. For a few years, when I taught in Little Village, Chicago, it was a catered meal to the staff- great Mexican food. My first year teaching, it was just a little pack of candy in our mailboxes- but that mattered. A hug, even a non-teacher just saying, “Happy Teacher Appreciation Day” was enough. It doesn’t take very much to be appreciated.
Today, nothing. I feel like today was a hard day teaching, yes, but even one appreciation today at school could have made all that better.
It sounds ridiculous to be complaining, like #firstworldproblems, like I’m griping and being far too emotional over one day. But, really, this is a teacher’s day to get something we don’t normally get- some recognition for the hard work we do all year.
It’s conditions like these, except harsher in places where teachers don’t have unions and rights to appeal, where austerity politics are slashing school budgets and governments would rather close schools than fund schools, alongside the lack of appreciation and will to do better, that have pushed so many teachers around the country and around the world to go on strike. No wonder. We’re striking for what seems so basic- clean classrooms with enough supplies, books, and materials, and for our autonomy as teachers. What other profession must I get a full degree and licensure and continue to meet all requirements (in NY State, we’re required to also have a Masters degree, so two degrees) then be made to feel so dumb, so awful, to have so little agency over our jobs, over our teaching?
We teachers aren’t appreciated, not really. Neither are our students or community.
I’ve put so much on this day, the one day in a year where I’m supposed to be appreciated, because, the truth is, all the other days of the year we aren’t appreciated. Maybe today was needed, because it was a real wakeup call- that one day of appreciation can’t make up for all the real-world lack of appreciation for teachers year-round.