Teacher Appreciation - Student Research Foundation

Why Do We Appreciate Teachers? Because They Appreciated Us

The NEA’s 2018 Teacher Appreciation Week will take place this year from May 7-11. It will be a week when the NEA will encourage people across America, especially students, to reach out and thank their teachers.  There will be special teacher appreciation events held across the country, opportunities for students to nominate their favorite teachers for awards, and more.

The arrival of Teacher Appreciation Week got a group of us thinking and talking about our favorite teachers from our own school days. As we talked and thought, we came up with some unexpected answers about our favorite teachers . . .

  • They were not necessarily the teachers who taught us the most. In fact, it was sometimes difficult for us to recall exactly what we learned from our favorite teachers. Although we had learned from them, they became our favorites for other reasons.
  • They paid attention to us. This was a big differentiator between them and other teachers. Even though some of us were not the smartest or most promising students in their classes, they encouraged us.
  • The focused on how much we were learning. The best teachers we could remember focused not so much on the material we were studying as on how well we were absorbing it. And they were flexible. If a class was having a hard time mastering a unit in algebra, for example, they were willing to devote more time to it and to us instead of charging ahead just to get the curriculum done.
  • They were funny. As we talked, we realized that they didn’t become our favorite teachers because of their discipline, knowledge, or technical skills. They became our favorites because they were funny. Humor seems to be the glue that sticks a great teacher to our memory.
  • They gave time to us. If we wanted to come by after school or during a break to talk over something we did not understand, they were there for us and enthusiastically welcomed us in. The gift of time, like a good sense of humor, seems to be a hallmark of good teaching.
  • They shared a little bit of information about themselves, in appropriate ways. One of us remembered that he had a memorable gym teacher who liked to show students his muscle car. Another recalled a French teacher who made an impression by telling stories about her trips to Paris. Favorite teachers shared information about themselves in ways that made them seem more approachable, and more human, to their students.

But the Sad Thing Is . . .

At the same time we remembered the good teachers who possessed the traits that we have described in this blog, we also recalled teachers who we disliked. Interestingly, they possessed traits that were the opposite of those we write about today. Instead of being funny, they were angry. Instead of focusing on us, they talked about themselves. Instead of taking the time to be sure we understood the concepts, they pushed ahead, come what may. Instead of caring about us, they seemed to care about other things.

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