Tuesday, May 8, was Teacher Appreciation Day here in the U.S. If you missed it, don’t feel too bad. It doesn’t get a lot of hype. There are no commercials, no sales, no ad space dedicated to it. A few restaurants offer discounts, and principals usually bring in donuts for the staffroom. That’s about it.
But teachers are important, and we’re forgetting that as a culture. Parents want them to be babysitters. Taxpayers want them to do their job for love, not money. Politicians want them to privatize. Everyone wants them to teach this or that agenda and accuses them of teaching the wrong ones.
But what would we do without teachers? The United States underfunds its schools, and we slip further and further in every conceivable metric against other developed countries. Everything from gross national income to infant mortality rate comes home to the quality and treatment of our teachers.
“Teacher Appreciation Day is very special. It’s the one day each year when we tell our teachers there’s no one we’re more proud of, and our teachers are like ‘There’s no one of whom you are more proud,’” said Tonight show host Jimmy Fallon in his special episode for Teacher Appreciation Day, making a joke about grammar.
One of his guests for the show, Trevor Noah, who is from South Africa, made a poignant point about the importance of education.
“In South Africa during Apartheid, black people weren’t given an access to education. My mother still found a way to teach herself and because of her I got a chance to learn in good schools and because of that, every generation of my family will get better. Education is that one step, the stepping stone that gets people to the next level.”
People who devalue education because schools don’t teach their particular lesson plan forget that the ultimate goal of education is for the world to get better. For that to happen, each generation must be better than the last, achieve greater things. Not the same things, over and over. And the first, crucial stepping stone to greater achievement is good teachers.
Teacher Appreciation Day should be every day.