Can somebody explain to me why teachers are always complaining? Yes, it’s true that most states and the federal government want to use student test scores to fire teachers. Yes, many districts have embraced “Value Added Measurement” even though no respectable statistician supports that. And, yes, we expect teachers to overcome the effects of poverty, poor nutrition, substandard housing and medical conditions on their students. And, yes, tenure and other job protections are under attack. But, leaving those points aside, teachers in nearly every country have their own “Teachers Day.”
Do plumbers and electricians have a special day set aside to honor them? Do construction workers, politicians, lobbyists, testing company executives and security guards? Of course they don’t. Don’t you think it’s time teachers stopped whining and enjoyed all the honors coming their way on “Teachers Day”?
For example, the 193 member nations of the United Nations celebrate “World Teachers Day” every October. About 50 countries also set aside a different day every year to celebrate their teachers.
Teachers around the globe have entire months locked up! Ten countries–Australia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Brazil, Poland, Chile, Sri Lanka, the Ukraine and New Zealand– have chosen an October day to celebrate their teachers, and in the Ukraine, students give their teachers chocolate!
February is a good month for teachers in the Middle East. That’s when Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman set aside a day to pay their respects.
September is also a good month for teachers, with India celebrating “Teachers Day” on September 5; China and Hong Kong on the 10th; and Brunei and Taiwan on the 23rd, and Singapore on the first Friday of that month.
Six countries honor teachers on a day in May: Iran, Bhutan, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, and Colombia. June has four Teacher Days for Bolivia, El Salvador, Hungary, and Guatemala, and March has five (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Albania, Lebanon, and Iraq). As far as I can tell, only August does not have a “Teachers Day.”
While students assume responsibility for instruction on “Teachers Day” in India, teachers really have it easy in Vietnam on November 20th. That day is set aside to allow students “to express their respect” for their teachers. Students begin preparing a week in advance, and many classes prepare literature and art to welcome “Teachers Day,” while other students prepare foods and flowers for the parties held at their schools. Students usually visit their teachers at their homes to offer flowers and small gifts, or organize trips with their teachers and classmates. Even former students pay respect to their teachers on this day.
But I’m proud to say that the United States is number one when it comes to honoring teachers. We have at least two “Teachers Days” and an entire “Teachers Week.” The first full week of May is “Teacher Appreciation Week,” with that particular Tuesday being designated as “Teacher Appreciation Day.” This official celebration is the result of hard work by the National Education Association and the National PTA, but the credit for the first U.S. “Teachers Day” goes to teachers Mattye Whyte Woodridge in Arkansas and Ryan Krug in Wisconsin. Both began writing to political leaders as early as 1944 about the need for a national day honoring teachers. Eleanor Roosevelt responded; she persuaded the 81st Congress to proclaim a “National Teacher Day” in 1953. One state, Massachusetts, has gotten into the act, with its own “Teachers Day” on the first Sunday in June.
Maybe US teachers are upset because teachers in Canada have their own postage stamp? I mean, what else could teachers be complaining about?
Some people worry that the professions of honor and respect for teachers begin and end on that particular day. We could prove them wrong by adopting my modest proposal. In addition to the celebrations, how about a concerted effort to end the dishonoring of teachers and teaching that goes on for most of the year? I’m thinking of the Fox News commentators who rattle on about overpaid teachers; school principals who treat teachers as interchangeable parts; union reps who bargain for rigid work rules that hamstring dedicated teachers; curriculum designers who labor to create ‘teacher-proof’ curricula; education school leaders with low standards and undemanding programs; cheap-shot politicians who demand more testing, and so on.
If those critics had to spend just one day doing what most teachers do every day, year in and year out, that might shut them up.
So thank you, teachers, for today and every day.