National Teacher Appreciation Week has a whole new meaning this year

There are over three million seniors in high school getting ready to graduate this spring. In Michigan, these students stopped attending face-to-face instruction on March 16. As distance learning has continued, parents have begun to play a larger role in their student’s education. Each parent’s role as a teacher in their own households has increased drastically. As we begin to celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week next week, should we consider expanding who we define as a “teacher?”

The first teachers in history were parents. In the times of hunting and gathering, mothers and fathers brought the children into the world. A parent’s role as a teacher focused on providing survival skills. As teachers, they let their children discover their own natural boundaries. Lessons were taught by showing, not telling. Rarely did parents teach by telling their students (kids) “no,” but rather letting them learn by experience. Many believed kids growing up in this learning atmosphere tended to be well adjusted contributing members of the community.

The Greek Empire grew to prominence between 500 – 300 B.C. Many believe this was due to the educational system is created that focused on physical and intellectual development. Athenians referred to the physical program as “gumnastike,” which focused on strength and stamina. They would begin training in a gymnasium. The physical development was thought to be associated with good health at an old age, improving one’s appearance, and preparing for war which was a key component of their society.

The intellectual component, known as “mousike,” was focused on educating students in the academic areas of modern-day music, dance, lyrics, and poetry. They valued teaching student rhetoric, how to effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas to others. The Greeks valued strength in mind and body.

So what is the present day role of our teachers? Today’s teacher’s responsibility is to help students gain knowledge which we as a society deem necessary for their success in life. Teachers are the architects of the next generation. Teachers fill the roles of coaches, mentors, role models, cheerleaders, and counselors. They support students when they are down, support them in failure and praise them as they experience success, challenge them to push their learning capacity, and provide them guidance when they lack direction. Sound familiar? Yes, it could also be used as the definition of an engaged parent.

We are currently experiencing an unprecedented crisis. The “stay home, stay safe” order issued in March brought students back home. Many parents are forced to work from home, some for work, some with increased parent duties or both. Distance learning caused our teachers to reinvent their instructional delivery overnight. The role of parents as school teachers increased dramatically, increased time tutoring, overseeing student engagement, and, in some cases, truancy officer. We have seen increased engagement between our school teachers and at home teachers as we have never seen before. Our education system of the future will be much better for it.

So as we celebrate National Teachers Week, please take a moment to celebrate not only the education team at school, but the education team at home. I leave each teaching team with this quote, “Teachers encourage minds to think and hands to create and hearts to love.” Happy National Teachers Week to all our educators!

Dr. Steve Patchin is Superintendent of Hancock Public Schools. Programs he has contributed to creating include Mind Trekkers and CareerFEST, helping students explore their talents and associated careers in STEM. His research has focused on increasing development of self-efficacy in individual students.


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