Celebrate education with American Education Week

I’ve noticed a phenomenon on Facebook over the last week or so. In anticipation of Thanksgiving, people are posting things they are thankful for. It’s a nice idea, taking time to focus on the positive things people have going on in their lives and recognizing that despite life’s hardships, there is plenty to celebrate.

I’ve been trying to do this same kind of thing within my education circle. I mean, I certainly get worried about OTES and high stakes testing, and larger-than-ever class sizes. However, I also try to celebrate all the good things, like my relationships with my students, camaraderie with colleagues and victories for all three association-endorsed candidates for school board.

AEW2013sqIt’s fitting that as I look for things to celebrate in education someone happened to tell me about American Education Week, which is coming up later this month. Before this week, I had never heard of it, so I did some investigating, and found that this is an 82-year-old event that was started to get Americans to recognize and support high-quality education for all students.

That struck a chord with me. At a time when the American education system is under fire, as educators fight back against a myriad of “education reformers” that don’t truly support quality public education for all at all, here is an event that was created over eight decades ago to do just what educators are trying to do now.

With my interest peaked, further investigation revealed that many school districts across the country embrace this event, and that each day of the week of November 18-22 has a designated observance, with a day for parents, support staff, community members and substitute teachers.

From the NEA website, I found great ideas for events outside the school. I saw that one local bought an ad in their local paper and they featured students talking about what they liked best about school and their dreams for the future. Another local cosponsored billboards with their district featuring pro-public education messages.

There were also suggestions for celebrating the week in your school. My favorite idea was to bring back retired teachers and have them teach for a day. Another school invited guests from the business community to read to students. One school held a contest to see which student could correctly identify the baby pictures of faculty members.

Looking through the list of all the amazing and creative things locals have done to commemorate this event over the years, celebrating teachers, community members, support staff and education in general, was energizing. As I think about trying to recognize American Education Week in my local with less than a week to go, I realize that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I can choose programs that have worked in other schools and communities and implement them with my colleagues. There may not be enough time to work with the district to cosponsor billboards throughout the city, but I could certainly coordinate an appreciation breakfast for teachers and support staff. It wouldn’t be too difficult to have elementary students make thank you cards for their bus drivers. It would be great to try a few activities this year, to establish a platform to build up on for next year, where my colleagues and I can plan further in advance.

As Thanksgiving approaches, making a conscious effort to recognize all the good things in life is a worthy endeavor, and celebrating American Education Week would go right along with that concept, to block out the pressures of the profession and remember all the joy that we get from being at school.

By Dan Greenberg, Sylvania Education Association

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