This Tuesday, May 9th, is Teacher Appreciation Day. In order to give you time to get your shit together and do something nice for your teacher(s), we’re posting this a few days early.
Yep – there’s gonna be a little stiff language in this post, because teaching is a gritty job. You might think it’s a nancy-pants kinda gig, but it takes guts of steel, an edgy brain and relentless drive. Me? I couldn’t do it. No way. I’d rather try out for the Navy SEALS than try to become a teacher – and my odds would be better, too.
Think about it: a teacher has to prep every lesson in each of their classes for an entire school year, then manage, let’s say, 5 classrooms a day, each filled with 30 or so people – many of whom do not want to be there – and after school, they have to correct all the tests, homework, essays, etc.. Then get up the next day and do it again. They also have to deal with parents, students’ personal issues, school administrators (who do less and make more), and they do it all for crap pay – and they have to put up with all your behavioral bullshit in class. You know why they do it?
Because they love you.
They tolerate all that nonsense because it gives them joy to see you succeed.
Why? Hell if I know. Teachers are unique. They’re like goalkeepers in futbol/hockey or drummers in a band: they have a special gene that motivates them to do things other folks avoid. They already did all the school you’ve done and much more, and they made the decision to come back. It takes someone with massive cojones to do that. — Ha, no thanks – I ran; as soon as I finished college, I was like, fuck this, I’m outta here. And I haven’t looked back since. But your teacher came back, and they came back for you. So, they deserve your respect.* Look them in the eye and say “Thank you”.
* Ok, you might have one teacher who’s a douche. Fair enough. But they probably didn’t start out that way. Follow the directions below, and you might be able to un-douchify them.
So, first, here are a few ideas I gleaned from friends who teach. These will help you be good to your teacher: (Note: all language is mine – especially the bad language – your teacher never talks like this. ever. probably not true.)
1. If and when you notice anything in the real world that relates to something they taught you: say, you use a math skill or you noticed a piece of history in a movie or identified something in nature when you went camping or something you read in a story that helped you make a good decision – whatever – TELL THEM. This also goes for anything you study that you just like, whether or not it’s useful. Tell them. “That was a fun experiment” or “I like y-slope intercept” or “Edgar Allan Poe is on the fleek” or whatever. If you were cooking for someone, you’d want them to tell you it was good, right?
2. If they are doing something – cleaning up, moving a desk, heading towards a door with their hands full – for fuck’s sake, help them out. If you’re a little kid, don’t worry about it (and sorry for saying “fuck”) but if you are grown up enough to notice they need help, then get off your ass and give them a hand before they ask – time to stop being a little kid.
3. Invite them to your graduation (or your football game or your play or show or whatever you do). But especially your graduation: when you finally get there, remember that though you worked hard and deserve the attention, you did NOT do it all by yourself. Thank them – in a card would be perfect, and be specific – tell them what you learned from them or what they mean to you.
Here are my personal suggestions for how to be good to your teacher, based on my years as a student, and – be warned – GLOVES ARE OFF:
1. If you’re that kid who always sits in the back row, quit fucking around. You’re not an idiot, so stop acting like one.
2. If you’re that kid who always sits in the front row, let someone else answer a question every once in awhile. The entire class knows you know the answer- believe me- and it is great that you do, it really is – but you don’t have to prove it every. single. time. Your teacher doesn’t want to say this, because they don’t want to discourage you. They are stoked that you pay attention and know what’s up, but they need to give the quieter students a chance. So, be aware of it, and police yourself. Good job.
3. Do the assignment. Even if you screw it up, do it. You may think it’s a lot of work, but your teacher has to read and/or correct that assignment and all the other assignments of all the other students in your class AND all the assignments from all the other classes they teach. If there are 29 other students in your class and your teacher has only 4 more classes (they probably handle more than that), then they’re looking at 150 assignments for every 1 that you do. Your teacher is so hard-core, and you’re pissing and moaning about doing 1/150th of the work they’re doing. Quit being a cry-baby; do the assignment.
4. Ask non-smartass questions.
6. Your teacher is not perfect; they will occasionally make mistakes. It’s totally okay to call them on that – it shows you’re paying attention – but don’t be a dick about it.
7. Read the assigned reading. Even if you’re not a fast reader, it’s okay, just get in there and slog through it. You will get faster. And when you show up to class, and the teacher asks you about something you should have read, you won’t look like such a nob.
Be good to your teacher. They work incredibly hard for you, and they get paid very little. Why do they get paid very little? Because power in America only values things that generate wealth, and you, as a student, do not generate wealth. All you are is a human being, and in this country, being a person doesn’t mean much. The corporate machinery does not care about you — but your teacher does. Your teacher cares enough to straight-up spend their days and nights on you, giving you a shot at having a decent life. They’re trying to give you the tools (knowledge) and the ability (to think, analyze, make good decisions, work with other people) to survive in a wealth-obsessed system. If you don’t respect and love your teacher for fighting that battle, then you’re a fool. Be good to your teacher. Start this week.
If you want to actually get your teacher some kind of gift for Teacher Appreciation Day, here are some quick dos and don’ts:
Give them any kind of cute tchotchke, especially if it has apples on it. No decorative items, candles, “best teacher” trophy, ceramic do-dads – none of that crap.
In general, remember that your teacher is not “quaint” and they don’t live in a cute little cottage house with a garden and white fence. They live in a place similar to wherever you live, they like the same movies and TV shows (more or less) and they go out on weekends and do normal things. If you look at an item and think, my grandma would like this, then don’t give it to your teacher. They are cooler than you think. (No offense to your G-ma, who is probably awesome.)
Give them gift cards – they will probably use these to buy classroom supplies, but at least they won’t have to spend their own money — which, yes, is something teachers do all the damn time.
Consider the gift of booze – If you are a youth, obviously you cannot give your teacher a bottle of scotch. But your parents can. Or maybe a gift card from BevMo.