Confessions of a "Failing Teacher"
Beyond Flowers and Cards: How to Really Appreciate Teachers

Teaching Students--and the Rest of Us--How to Be Appreciative

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Beacon Broadside is running a series of posts on educators and education.

Award-winning educator Linda F. Nathan founded the Boston Arts Academy in 1998. She consults and speaks on educational issues nationally and internationally, and teaches a graduate course at Harvard on building democratic schools. Nathan is the author of The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School.

0615Senior year is by far the most demanding at Boston Arts Academy. Students must truly demonstrate one of our shared values: passion with balance. Their final senior Humanities paper and group project is due. Opening nights for their final arts exhibitions and performances are just around the corner. Many must still scramble to pay for senior dues, prom, and yearbook.

These demands can feel like too much, and adolescents often forget to react to stress with grace. How many adults know how to do this? So today, in our assembly, I reminded our seniors about the importance of showing teachers their appreciation.

If each senior writes one note to one teacher, I would feel I had done my job. I want students to recognize the brilliance and selflessness of so many of their teachers. Sadly, the general public could benefit from this education as well.

I recalled in assembly how each of my staff has done something terrific with kids and with one another as colleagues. In my “Celebrating Another Year Together” presentation each year, I name remarkable things that our faculty has accomplished. I remind us of the various ways teachers took on extra responsibilities, implemented a new curriculum, succeeded with a particular project or simply were present daily for students. If I could, I would reimburse every teacher for the thousands of dollars they have collectively spent on student supplies, taking students to lunch, driving students home, etc...

And finally, if I could, I would put a huge stop sign at the door to prevent high-stakes testing from taking over the curriculum. I would let teachers know that I hold them accountable for high standards, that I trust them to do an excellent job, and that I will not tie their evaluations to test scores.

Alas, it is the letter and my own writing that I know I can deliver. The rest is up to the students I encourage, and to a behavior of appreciation that the community can model for them.