While one week simply isn’t enough, Teacher Appreciation Week is an opportunity to step back and look at the incredible professionals who grow the hearts and minds of children every day. As I was pulling into one of our schools this week, I watched fleets of buses bring children to school on time like clock work. I saw intervention specialists and paraprofessionals waiting to support students as they made their entrance into the school.
As the day continued, I watched office staff assist visitors and students. I watched teachers provide instruction and encouragement to students. I saw professionals in our cafeteria serving meals and positive energy. I also noticed administrators jumping into situations to problem solve and provide support. When the day ended, I watched custodians move swiftly through the school to make it shiny and new, so we could do it all again.
I saw a lot of people working hard to make the day a good one. And when you step back and take a look at all that we are able to accomplish in any given day, it’s astounding. It’s a full production, and the show goes on for many days, weeks, and months during the school year.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that we are tired. Every year brings it’s challenges, and this year was no exception. In fact, many of us have said this has been the hardest year of our careers. We aren’t just tired. Our hearts are exhausted. Many of us have compassion fatigue. Caring so big for so long with so much coming at us has been a lot.
I feel like I’ve typed so many posts like this one this year, but it’s important that other people know they aren’t alone in the feeling. Many have said, “This used to be fun. It isn’t fun anymore.” I get what they mean. It’s not that we aren’t about the hard work. We love to work hard. We also want to enjoy our work. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we have that enjoyment on a pretty consistent basis at work.
When I say enjoy the work, I don’t mean that we need food and parties all the time. I mean that we need hope that tomorrow won’t be exactly like today. We need to feel that we belong and that people would notice if we weren’t here. We need to feel engaged in our work – doing things in our classrooms that we are excited about – because if we are excited, kids get excited. We need a sense that our work matters.
And we need to take really good care of ourselves and each other. These jobs aren’t getting any easier. Sometimes the most ridiculous of circumstances require the most ridiculous amount of love. We can’t be good for other people if we aren’t good for ourselves and each other. Every little interaction and encounter matters. Every smile, every hello, every conversation matters. Every small gesture like a cup of coffee matters. Every kind word goes a long way – when you see good in students and colleagues – speak it, write it.
My greatest hope for Teacher Appreciation Week is that teachers can feel how deeply they matter. And that while they can’t always see it, they are making an impact. May each of us see that we are all responsible for building the culture we desire. Regardless of our titles. We lead from every seat. Our students too.
We cannot do it alone. We cannot solve the big challenges in our schools by ourselves. Not individually. Not even solely as an individual school. Meaningful change will require us to partner district office and members of our community and other schools near and far. Meaningful change will require us to get uncomfortable and take risks.
We have big work ahead, and in the meantime, we need to finish the year strong.
Educators, thank you. Your words matter. Your work matters. You matter.
Keep showing up.