Apparently it is teacher appreciation week in the US this week. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. In my house every day is teacher appreciation day. Or at least I try to have it that way. Understand that my wife is a teacher, my daughter in law is a teacher and my son in the assistant principal of an elementary school so I get reminded every day of the good that teachers do. Every day these people in my family and teachers around the country and the world are doing their part to make the world a better place. Beyond that the stories they tell remind me of the sorts of things that only a teacher in a face to face daily relationship with students can do.

Teaching is much more than the spitting out of facts and information. It is more than lectures and quizzes and projects and grades and in fact is much more than what takes place in the classroom. Teaching is about sharing enthusiasm. It is about helping students relate to the material. It is about a relationship that includes the teacher the students the material being learned and about real life. Teaching is highly personal.

My wife is a library media specialist who splits her time between a middle and a high school. She spends a lot of time reading books targeted at these age levels so she can recommend books to students. But this is not just about book talks (though she does those) but about knowing the students so that she can recommend specific books based on the students interests and personalities. I dare say that a lot of librarians do the same. For the most part this goes unnoticed and unappreciated except by the students who are turned on to reading. This also happens in other areas as well including computer science.

In a blog post titled The University as a Gym for the Mind Eugene Wallingford talks about the role of the university in helping students know what to study. He says in part:

Likewise, not all learners are ready to manage their own educations and professional development -- especially at age 18, when they come out of a K-12 system that can't always prepare them to be completely independent learners.

No matter how smart their parents think they are very few K-12 students are ready to manage their own education. These students are still figuring out who they are and what they are interested in. In fact they generally don’t know enough about what it out there and what potential areas of student they might be interested in. The role of the teacher includes exposing students to new potential. It includes widening the world view and understanding a student well enough to suggest new areas of study that might fit their talents.

These days the curriculum often doesn’t include enough exploratory (call it elective) material. A good teacher still finds the time to point a student in a direction and get out of the way. They also find new ways to share old material and to make it interesting to a new generation. The good teacher doesn’t have One year of experience X times but has X years of experience. To all you amazing people out there who are doing what seems like a thankless job most of the time and a job under attack too much of the time I say

THANK YOU!

Microsoft is, as I hope you’d expect, recognizing Teacher Appreciation week this week. This is far from the only time we think about or appreciate teachers of course but it seems like a good time to make a point of the appreciation. I would like to share some links to what is being posted today.

In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Day, Andrew Ko, general manager, U.S. Partners in Learning Microsoft Corp, authored a blog on Microsoft on the Issues highlighting one of many educators selected to attend the Partners in Learning US Forum who is having a significant impact on our students. The blog post highlights David Squires from Commerce Township, Michigan who is working with his students on a project to achieve the impossible: solve unemployment. We are using this week as an opportunity to promoting more applicants to the Partners in Learning US Forum, the deadline to apply is May 15.

Anthony Salcito has blogged on the importance of teachers and the need to raise their profile and importance in his WW Education Insights blog.

Also, on Daily Edventures, 2010 U.S. Teacher of the Year, Sarah Wessling is highlighted.