by Jim Lang
From Hilda Kendrick to Tony Willis to Jack Dvorak — these are the teachers who helped make me the person I am today. I appreciate them all. I thank them all. I hope I can have a similar impact on my own students. I hope I can contribute to the noble profession of teaching as they have.
As I reflect on the teachers who shaped my life, one unique quality connects them all – they were all intrinsically motivated to make the lives of their students and colleagues better.
I point this out because I think that to truly appreciate teachers we must honor those qualities that make them so exceptional.
Every great teacher in my life cared about me. Not my test scores. Not my data. Not my grades. Me.
Yes, my learning was essential, of course. But by caring about me, they ensured I learned.
These great teachers were not motivated primarily by academic standards. Or data walls. Or “highly effective” evaluations. Or merit pay. Or competition with their colleagues next door or down the hall.
These great teachers were great because they worked tirelessly to make my life and the lives of my peers better. That’s it. That’s the secret. That’s the art of teaching.
So, as we end Teacher Appreciation Week, my final appeal to those who desire to truly thank and appreciate a teacher is this – let us teach.
Indiana has been on the education “reform” rollercoaster for 12 years. New standards, more standardized testing, more accountability, more restrictions on our schools and universities, new merit pay proposals, new teacher evaluation proposals, new school corporation rating systems, the nation’s largest government-sponsored voucher program, an entirely new education agency created with no debate – none at all.
Effective teachers will share the truth about these “reforms” – that most of them are unnecessary, wasteful, and wholly ineffective. Moreover, most of these ideas dampen the very art of teaching that drives so many of us to make a difference in the lives of our students.
So, as I reflect on the past, I also ponder the future. I worry that this art of teaching that drives the truly great teachers is being diminished by a steady stream of bad ideas. I suspect that teaching is, in fact, a dying art if we continue down the same path.
And yet, I know that the desire to appreciate teachers also reveals a real belief in us and a genuine concern for our best interests. This gives me great hope for the future of our profession.
As we end Teacher Appreciation Week, know that the best way to honor all teachers is to simply respect us. Listen to us. Trust us. Believe in us. Support us. Work with us. Join with us to stop this steady stream of bad ideas in Indiana. Join with us to advocate for ideas that really work.
And most importantly, just let us teach.
This really is the best way to show your appreciation. It’s the best way to help us serve your children and our communities better.
It is the best way to ensure that the art of teaching continues.
The best way to thank us is to simply let us do what we love.