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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Commissioner Smith: Don't forget to appreciate your teachers

EricJSmith It's Teacher Appreciation Week. Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek about the need to take the time to show teachers some love.

Why does the state need to set aside time to appreciate teachers?

Well, it's important that we dedicate time because so often it gets overlooked in the day to day rush of work at the state level but also in parents' households within Florida and within communities, the needed appreciation that we should express to our teachers for doing just incredible work. Incredible work. It sometimes gets overlooked in the rush of things. So I think it is important that we dedicate some time to specifically appreciating the work that teachers do.

Just the last several days we've seen the work of great teachers in the writing scores that have come out. That's a credit to kids that have the capacity, but also the teachers who were able to tap that capacity and do something with it. So again, it's an example of how we are blessed with the teacher corps that we have.

So what do you think we need to do to show our teachers we appreciate them?

I think first of all we need to expand this beyond just one week. We need to do it every day. My message is there's nothing more important than acknowledging the appreciation we have for our teachers in a visible and tangible way, whether that's a note, whether that's a phone call, whether that's some other way to show appreciation for our teachers as we work to close out the school year. My call when I visit schools always to our students is, Have you taken time to thank your teachers for the great gift they give you every day? And kids, every time, they respond in a very positive way because they do recognize the great gift their teachers give them every day in their lesson design, though their patience and through their diligence in sharing information and thought about the critical content they deliver.

Should we be giving them presents, too? You always hear about teachers who lack things in their classroom. Is this the appropriate time to give them school supplies?

I think this is a great time to give teachers classroom supplies. I used to be a classroom teacher. At the end of the year I would on occasion get not only teaching supplies, but I'd get a bouquet of flowers, or I'd get a card. You know, teaching is very stressful. All of us think we have stressful jobs. Nobody knows what stress is unless they've been in a classroom for a full day. Very stressful jobs. And to be interrupted by an expression of appreciation from those you work so hard to serve, and an acknowledgement of that, truly is moving for a teacher and inspires them to come back another year with even more energy. And there are many appropriate forms of appreciation that can be shared. I think just the act of professing appreciation is key.

What do you tell teachers who say, 'We haven't seen a raise in two or three years and we aren't expecting any and we don't feel so loved'?

Well, I think that and again this session would be an example of that. The work of district leadership, school boards and principals to make sure the needs of education are understood. And the response by the governor in his budget recommendation for next year, the response of legislative leaders in constructing the budget for next year. The response of the president and the federal government in making sure we don't have a drop for our teachers all signal the importance of what teachers do every day for our children as being critically important.

Anything else you want to share?

I'd ask parents and other adults to take a moment and not only think about the teacher that might be working so hard with their children, but to think also about teachers that might have affected them and have allowed them to achieve the things that they have in their lives. And as they think back about that to understand that teachers today are doing the same thing for the children in our community, the children in our families. And it is important. ...

I think it's a time for communities, whether it be now or over the summer or at the beginning of school ... to recognize teachers. For civic organizations, for city councils to recognize the work of teachers. For businesses to support education foundations and to support our schools directly. ... This is the time to be thoughtful not only just giving things to teachers but to be thoughtful ... about how you can symbolize that support in a way that is tangible. And it doesn't have to be just this next week. ... I do think we're headed to an even better year next year than this.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:22am]


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