Opinion Article by Sonya Ashby, Charleston Gazette-Mail
It’s that time of year again: Monday marks the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week. The last few years have seen teacher wages at the bottom of the barrel, benefits stripped, workloads increased with fewer resources, and a lot of teacher bashing in the West Virginia Legislature and on social media.
My colleagues and I have stood on a picket line twice in the last two years to stop legislation dangerous to public education. The Legislature couldn’t pass the omnibus bill in regular session, so they have scheduled an impeccably timed special session to try to pass it again.
My colleagues and I have written more emails and made more phone calls to legislators than we can count, and they just don’t seem to be listening to the experts on education — the teachers. Forgive me if I don’t feel very appreciated.
Most people reading this are not legislators, but the average person can do many things to show appreciation to teachers without spending any of their hard-earned income. Before your child enters kindergarten, either teach them to tie their shoes or purchase shoes that do not require tying. There are 20-plus students to one teacher and one aide. That’s a lot of shoe laces to tie — especially when the laces are wet and it’s sunny outside.
If your child takes a cold lunch, make sure they can open everything in their lunch box on their own. In this case, it’s roughly 60 students to 2 teachers. That’s a lot of Slim Jims and fruit cups!
Have your child practice getting in and out of your vehicle quickly. This helps the teachers in the drop-off/pick-up lines and the parents in line behind you.
Make sure your child has a bedtime routine and goes to bed on time. Lack of sleep has a severe impact on behavior and learning. Don’t be afraid to unplug the Wi-Fi at bedtime.
Read to your child regularly — this will have a direct impact on your child’s success. Remember, teachers are human beings. Teachers make mistakes, have miscommunications and miss the mark on occasion. When this happens, please talk to the teacher about it before taking it to social media.
These actions require no money, but will make a teacher’s job easier, help your child gain independence and give them a good foundation for academic success.
Not a parent? You can still do something to show teachers appreciation. When you get a phone call from a teacher asking you to speak to their class, judge a science fair, mentor a student or chaperone a field trip, please volunteer your time. Attend school sporting events, art exhibitions, music and theater performances to support the students in your community.
Whether you are a parent or not, the most important thing you can do is educate yourself about the representatives in your district. Are your representatives supporting or degrading public education? If your representatives are not supporting public education, it is your right and your responsibility to vote them out of office.
When Teacher Appreciation Week rolls around again this year, I will graciously accept the heartfelt gifts of wildflowers, handmade cards and other goodies from students. But in the back of my mind I will also be wondering when educators will be properly compensated rather than “appreciated.” If you can read this, thank a teacher ... by voting for representatives that will support fully funded public schools for West Virginia.
(Sonya Ashby is a National Board certified teacher in Parkersburg.)