Not All Teachers Are Appreciated Equally

Katie Sluiter

I teach in an urban Title 1 school district. I love it. I love the students and families. I love the staff and administration. I adore my job.

My son is in Kindergarten in an award-winning elementary school in a large, affluent district–the same district my husband and I attended. We love the teachers and administrators. It is a wonderful school.

The differences in the district where I teach and where my son attends school are vast. The achievement gap is probably the most talked-about issue, and it is attributed to many things. Both schools are public schools in Michigan, but one has a high poverty rate and a lower graduation rate. One has a high number of students on free/reduced lunch and a lower AP class pass rate. One has more parental involvement and funding (state funding as well as locally passed bond/millage proposals). One school distributes iPads to students and has more class offerings for students.

All of these things affect student achievement, but they also affect the teachers. Teaching is a hard job. It just is. All teachers have different challenges no matter what kind of district they teach in, which is why Teacher Appreciation Week is so important.

Teachers put in countless hours of their own time to prepare lessons and grade work. They spend their own money on supplies. They spend their summers reading and learning how to do their jobs better. ALL teachers deserve at least a hat tip this week.

I think, though, that many do not realize that the discrepancies in differing school districts reach even into Teacher Appreciation Week. This week, the PTO at my son’s elementary school is putting on a tea for all the teachers. Parents have helped raise funds for this and have volunteered their baking talents and time to help the teachers know how much they are appreciated. This is in addition to how the administration honors those teachers.

At my school, we are definitely honored by our administration. Our principals and superintendent never hide how much they recognize our hard work and dedication to our district. In fact, just this morning I opened a generous email from our superintendent. I know I am valued in my district. However, because we don’t have the parental involvement, an email and donuts delivered from central office are all we get.

Let me be clear: I don’t mind. I know I am appreciated. I would be lying however, if I didn’t admit that Teacher Appreciation Week is bittersweet for teachers in districts like mine, and I think maybe it’s been made worse by social media.

When I first started teaching, I didn’t know that the Snickers I got in my mailbox was small compared to some teachers getting $100 gifts from their classes due to the generosity of parents. I didn’t even know teachers GOT gifts or cards from students/parents.

Now I see photos and status updates about gift baskets and treats and lunches. Pinterest is over-flowing with ideas of how to honor the teachers in your life. My son’s schools’ PTO newsletter asks for donations and volunteers and baked goods to show the staff how much they are valued.

My students know that their teachers love them, even when they see other schools with far more technology and resources, newer buildings, and textbooks. My colleagues and I similarly know we are valued despite the lack of gifts and cards. However, the sting is still there. We are all aware that we have less, and even though we logically know that money doesn’t prove value, it’s hard not to feel that way sometimes.

It’s not just the students who feel budgetary crunches and other cultural challenges. The teachers experience it, too.

I hope all teachers… ALL OF THEM…get notes of thanks and love during teacher appreciation week.


Not All Teachers Are Appreciated Equally

This post was written by Katie Sluiter exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.

Katie Sluiter is a teacher and mother in West Michigan. She currently teaches English to 8th and 9th grade students. Her writing has been featured on BlogHer and BonBon Break, as well as in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan and The Educator's Room. She has a Masters of Arts in English with a Teaching Emphasis.