BENNETT: Teacher appreciation week calls for respect



My heart melts a little at the concept of Teacher Appreciation Week. Not to be overdramatic, but I have so much respect for those teachers that dedicate unrequired amounts of time to forming as effective a lesson plan as possible or make the effort to truly be there to help a student through school and through life.

And though it might be better and more heartfelt to thank them on our own, sometimes we need the day to be set in stone for us to remember to show our gratitude. Only problem is, when all a week asks us to give to teachers is respect and half of us struggle to even do that, it calls into attention a greater issue in student culture.

We’ve all had those moments where we run into the teacher in a cafe and are hit with the shocking revelation that teachers are people with lives too, but that basic mantra of “teachers are people” gets lost in the cacophony of yawns and impatiently tapping fingers. It might take a little more conscious effort to remember that teachers have activities they would rather do and their own children who they would rather be with, and they are likely just as annoyed at waking up early in the morning as their students.

So we’re in the same boat – except the students get to come to school and learn, something grown adults pay money to community colleges even after getting a degree to do. Meanwhile, teachers have to try to help students who, if they put as much effort into doing their work as they do into making the teacher’s job as hard as humanly possible, would be succeeding in class with flying colors. But other than that it is exactly the same.

With that in mind, we don’t have to love every teacher. Sometimes there are people our personalities clash with, and there are teaching styles that do not work with our particular minds. And people have flaws – their strengths and their weaknesses. It is perfectly okay not to adore a certain teacher.

But we still need to focus on retaining the basic elements of human decency. We could also strive for higher goals, like attempting to pay attention to a lecture or stay receptive to teacher feedback and help. But even if our eyelids start to get heavy or that missing homework assignment never winds up on the teacher’s desk, we should still strive to be good people.

When we do not like someone or know them well, we still have to treat them with the most basic amount of respect. Not insulting them or mocking things that we do not know or understand (and especially not in earshot), not blatantly speaking over their lecture (which disrupts everyone else, just to make matters worse), and after that chatting session, not stopping the teacher to briskly say “Well I don’t get this” when they just explained it. When we make no effort to pay attention, it is not someone else’s fault, nor their job to make up for our choice.

And those most simple things are all we have to do. Not asking “How are you?” every day. No presents or baked goods. Just treating someone like they are a person, and taking care not to be too evidently disgruntled for an hour and a half long period.

We don’t need to “make teacher appreciation week every week.” But we are reaching the point in our lives where we have developed emotional maturity; it is essential to employ it.