How To Give Back To Your Favorite Teachers
The passion of teachers—who are given the incredible responsibility to educate the next generation—is nothing short of remarkable. In a Scholastic study, nearly every teacher (98%) agrees that teaching is more than a profession, but is how they make a difference in the world.
There’s no better time than back-to-school season and especially World Teacher’s Day, October 5, to celebrate and support our nationwide educators. This year especially will mark the 70th anniversary of a landmark United Nations document that states all children should be entitled to a free compulsory education as a key fundamental right. Here are just a few ideas to celebrate the teachers in your life, and support their mission to educate the next generation.
1. Reach out to a teacher and say “thank you.”
Being a teacher is not an easy job. Elementary and middle school teachers must keep up with their pupils’ seemingly boundless energy, and teach them foundational skills that impact their long-term academic success. High school teachers are expected to educate, support, and “get through” to their students as well. Just think back on what it was like to be a teenager navigating academics, cliques, puberty, love interests, and trying to figure out what you want to do with your life… all, seemingly before you turn 18.
Point being, teachers work tirelessly every day to elicit the natural gifts of their students, cultivate their potential, and be a mentor-slash-role model every day.
Even though it might seem obvious, reach out to one of your past or present teachers, or a friend who’s a teacher. Just say a simple “thank you” and wish them a happy World Teacher’s Day. If the opportunity presents itself, ask them why they decided to become a teacher. Whether it was their childhood dream job or simply a profession they fell into, more often than not you’ll get to put yourself in their shoes and walk away feeling genuinely inspired by their passion.
2. Help fund a teacher’s day-to-day classroom supplies or donate.
A not-so-fun fact: according to a survey by the US Department of Education, 94 percent of public school teachers reported paying for supplies without reimbursement. If you imagine a typical classroom, remember the personalized name tags on your desk? The multiple world maps, motivational posters, and periodic tables hung up on the wall? It’s likely those came directly out of your teacher’s own wallet.
If you do one thing today, help provide for a teacher’s classroom materials (and augment learning with field trips, science experiments, or virtual classrooms) through crowdfunding platforms like DonorsChoose. Alternatively, you can host a local school supplies drive for teachers in your community, get involved in back-to-school campaigns that fill backpacks with school supplies for low-income students (check out Kids in Need Foundation, A Precious Child, or Operation Backpack), or support organizations promoting education and literacy all around the world, such as the Global Education Fund or Room to Read.
3. Volunteer at a local public school.
Time permitting, the simplest way to get an “inside look” into the needs of an individual teacher or school is to volunteer! First hand experiences will always bring an issue to life, and in fact, many districts seek volunteers that can help tutor students in reading or math, becoming a classroom helper, chaperoning a field trip or other school event, or even maintenance work around the school itself.
If you’re a parent, you can also easily join the local Parent Teacher’s Association (PTA) group to hear the most important items being discussed at school. If you’re unsure, always feel free to look online for more information… or simply ask!
4. Vote for local and state officials whose platforms support teachers and education.
No matter what your political beliefs, stay informed and do your diligence to elect lawmakers that better pay and fund public schools, so that it benefits the school age generation. Whether they’re your kids (or grow up to be your colleagues 20 years later), students will become adult members of society and contribute to our rapidly changing future.
Sadly, even in a first world country like the United States, education inequality is high. Only 9 percent of kids growing up in low-income communities will graduate from college by the time they are 25. Many teachers—including through programs like Teach for America—teach in Title I schools in inner cities and rural zip codes. Politics can be one of the few ways to systematically tackle inequality and provide support where it’s needed.
5. Support teachers outside of “school.”
Beyond classroom-based giving (whether money or time), there are countless ways to think outside the box on how to support teachers. The following are just a few examples:
Almost 1 in 5 educators must take another job to make ends meet. Why not hire a teacher, if you’re a small business owner or manager?
If you’re a professional, is there a way you can provide some free physical or informational resources for teachers? For example, if your company publishes case studies, can you create a worksheet or discussion guide that teachers could use in their classrooms? What about offering up a few hours of your time to volunteer during “career day” or inviting some students for a job shadow opportunity?
When asked about the top factors for retaining good teachers, 93% listed more family involvement in students’ education. If you’re a parent, how are you helping your kids absorb the material that they’re learning at school?
In the same survey, 91% of educators also listed (as the third most important factor) more help for students who have behavioral problems that interfere with learning. Is there a way you can help kids in your community who come from difficult backgrounds?
Are you a teacher? If so, we’d love to first, thank you for all your hard work and dedication, and second, ask: what inspired you to become a teacher? How else can we support you? Comment below!
Alice is a California-based writer thinking on the things shaping urban living, the modern woman’s experience, and living a conscious life of impact in light of a bigger world. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, she recently spent a year abroad in Peru working with a microfinance project. You can follow her latest creative endeavors and musings at Mine Felicity or on Instagram at @alice.zhng.