In classrooms all across America, long hours of curriculum are taught, thousands of papers are graded each day, yet teachers still find the time to constantly brainstorm strategies to support their diverse student population. They stay up late answering emails and stay after class to help a struggling student. On any given day, a teacher may wear the hat of educator, mediator, cheerleader, advocate, disciplinarian, nurse, counselor, and so much more. For many of us, there is no greater job!
If you were to ask these teachers why they entered the field of education, many would cite their dreams of making a difference and changing the lives of their students. However, if you were to ask them why they stay in the field, many would most likely cite the students that have changed their lives. In service, we often find that those we serve in fact give more back to us.
Teaching has become one of the most stressful occupations in the U.S.; teachers reported a daily stress rate tied with nurses as the highest among all occupational groups. This daily stress can sadly lead to burn out and teacher turnover. However, if you were to ask a teacher why they have persisted, they will most likely answer with a story. They will tell you about their most challenging student with a heart of gold, the student who graduated against all odds, or the one they believe they have failed. It is these stories of “triumph and despair” that remind educators why they do what they do.
There are many creative and clever ways to celebrate your teacher, but the most heartfelt and meaningful way would be to add to their story. Sincere letters of gratitude can often still be found in their desks or at home on display as a source of light in their rough seasons. I know not only because I asked, but because I have my own. The cherished notes or pictures can pull teachers through the most stressful times and remind them why teaching can be one of the most rewarding occupations out there.
So, how can you celebrate your teacher? Simple. Tell them why they are worth celebrating!
Julie Richardson serves as a school psychologist at Henry Barnard Labortory School in Rhode Island. She is a U.S. Department of Education School Ambassador Fellow.