It’s Teacher Appreciation Week all over America, & I light weight feel a way. All week, my Facebook timeline has been inundated w/testimonies & pictures that express gratitude for teachers: flowers, candy, handwritten letters, & gift cards. You name it, this week, a teacher got it. S/he got The View shout out, the Barnes & Noble 25% discount, & the Google doodle. S/he got the #thankateacher hashtag, the free pack of Target pens, & the President’s Proclamation. S/he got a free Chipotle bowl, a free annual membership to the MOSI Museum of Science & Industry, & complimentary admission to Sea World. S/he even got a free classroom pet. <—-really? I feel a way.
National Teacher Appreciation Week (NTAW) is undoubtedly reserved for K-12 teachers, but mainly elementary school teachers. I mean, all of this week’s freebies are reserved for K-12 teachers. (Classroom pet?) Aaaaand, not only does President Barack Obama publicly thank his 5th grade teacher, but throughout his Teacher Appreciation Day & National Teacher Appreciation Week Proclamation, he totally implies the intended teacher demographic for this needed celebration. For instance, he writes: “I have worked hard throughout my Presidency to make sure my Administration does its part to support our educators and our education system, but the incredible progress our country has seen—from achieving record high graduation rates to holding more students to high standards that prepare them for success in college and future careers—is thanks to the dedicated teachers, families, and school leaders who work tirelessly on behalf of our young people.” The phrase “prepare them for success in college” light weight excludes college professors from NTAW. I’m just sayin. So, I feel a way.
I’m an assistant professor of English at an HBCU whose mission includes teaching the “underrepresented” and “underprivileged” student, & I, as well as every college professor—especially those not teaching in the STEM programs to which President Obama has given immediate attention—deserves to walk into a Barnes & Noble and receive her 25% discount, too.
While we may not have to (directly) address standardized testing, helicopter parenting, & runny noses, we have to address standardized testing, helicopter parenting, & runny noses. Although we have (give or take) a month “off” for holiday break, a week “off” for Spring break, & potentially two-three months “off” for summer recess, we have the year round obligation of conferencing, engaging in community service, sitting on University & departmental wide committees, & publishing (in academic journals whose editors can make us feel as incompetent as the end-of-semester student grievances that are grounded in false complaints)—all the while spending nine months out of the year making less than $60,000 a year, stressing over a $130,000+ student loan, & teaching over 150 students, most of whom are first-generation college students w/reading & writing skills that reflect middle school ability, who have no money (or care) for purchasing required textbooks, who maintain outrageous senses of entitlement (to undeserved grades, to spoon-feeding, & to our free time—our very souls), who—despite being considered members of the “Google generation”—cannot type a paper, determine reputable online sources, or use their smartphones for anything but socializing, who submit late papers w/their own names misspelled, w/blocked text that excludes paragraph breaks, & w/sentences that include lowercased proper nouns, who publicly debase us via ratemyprofessor.com after they’ve earned a failing grade in the course, & whose priorities rest in working a 9-5, looking flyyy, joining a Greek organization, looking flyyy, finding a lover, looking flyyy, going home every other weekend, looking flyyy, & then, maybe then, being a “full-time” student at the University in which they enrolled. I’m just sayin. We want free admission into Sea World, too. We want discounts to Banana Republic, Staples, & The Swan & Dolphin Resort at Disney World. All teachers deserve such recognition, not just our K-12 comrades.
According to Obama’s NTAW Proclamation, “In working to ensure all our daughters and sons have the chance to add their voice and perspective to America’s story, our teachers help shape a Nation that better reflects the values we were founded upon.” While Obama’s Proclamation never concretely excludes the college professor, America’s interpretation of it absolutely does. Come on! College professors (adjuncts & instructors) deserve a seat at the table, too.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week (especially to my mother, Choling Bryant-Walker, a retired 3rd grade teacher & my own Master teacher. I am because she is.)