Appreciating Teachers in Underprivileged Schools - National Council of Teachers of English
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Appreciating Teachers in Underprivileged Schools

This post is written by member Sharonica Nelson. 

Teaching is a job that comes with very little thanks and accolades. In fact, teachers are some of the most overlooked and under-appreciated professionals. Teaching does not come with hefty compensation, nor does it come with many pats on the back. Truthfully, it is not for the faint at heart, and those who choose to teach are special people with special gifts. Therefore, national teacher appreciation week is fitting. Teachers deserve a time set aside just for them to be acknowledged and appreciated because of the hard work they do in classrooms daily. All teachers deserve this, but especially those who teach in underprivileged schools.

Teaching in less-affluent schools has its own set of challenges, issues, and concerns. Although all teachers are subject to changes in the form of new curriculum due to new pedagogical techniques, many times these changes do not reflect the impact on disadvantaged students.  These new initiatives stem from policy changes and legislative actions imposed by those who have no teaching experience. Often, students and teachers in underprivileged schools are the first to feel the brunt of educational disruptions and changes and the last to recover, particularly from new leaders who are eager to “turn the school around” and a high yearly turnover of new co-workers.

Many teachers in less-affluent schools have class sizes that are far larger than the average. Within these classes are double the number of students with behavioral inconsistencies, learning deficiencies, and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Yet, these teachers keep on teaching and making magic in the classroom by raising test scores, building relationships, and encouraging students to rise above their circumstances.

Just as they keep on teaching and making magic, teachers in underprivileged schools are also some of the most forgotten during teacher appreciation week. Many of their students do not have the financial resources to appreciate their teachers through gift giving and may not set aside time to make a gift or say a kind word. There are years when the administrative staff “forgot” to plan a gesture of appreciation for these teachers. Therefore, teachers must appreciate themselves:

  1. Be proud. Teachers must realize that they are not alone in the trenches and that together all teachers are making a difference. Continue meeting students at their point of need, and know that even if no one else recognizes it, you are making a difference in the lives of students that need it the most. Also, realize that you are doing a job that many would not think twice about doing, and with that comes honor.
  2. Show self-appreciation. If you do not appreciate yourself, who will? All teachers are valuable, needed, and special. The trip that you have put off, plan it. Have not been to dinner or lunch in a while? Plan it. If it is time for a haircut and/or color, make it extra special this time. The students will notice and will give compliments to no end. Massages are great. Find those discount websites that promote deals on massages and go have a day of relaxation.
  3. Show appreciation for a fellow teacher. No one knows the dynamics of teaching in an underprivileged setting like a fellow teacher. Giving to others brings the giver great joy. Therefore, show appreciation by giving to others who share a similar situation. It could be something as simple as lunch, flowers, a gift card, or even a handwritten note. The possibilities are endless, but the receiver will be surprised and thankful.

Teachers of students in less affluent schools deserve to be acknowledged, patted on the back, and thanked several times over for the work done daily. These teachers show and prove every day that they are the epitome of special people with special gifts, and that they are not faint at heart. For these reasons, teachers in disadvantaged schools cannot be forgotten and should be shown much appreciation!

Dr. S. Nelson is a mommy, wife, and 7th grade Language Arts teacher in an urban middle school in Alabama. She works heavily with Red Mountain Writing Project at UAB in different aspects, and is the founder of College, Career & Beyond, a nonprofit whose mission is to educate all on the importance of education. She is also an author, presenter, and teacher consultant.