The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OnMilwaukee.com, its advertisers or editorial staff.
We here at OnMilwaukee understand that your life is busy, your job is demanding, your kids are a handful, and between Mother's Day and the NHL Stanley Cup and the NBA Finals and finally seeing the doctor about that thing you've been putting off, you may have forgotten Teacher Appreciation Day yesterday on Tuesday, May 3.
Fortunately, May 2-8 is technically Teacher Appreciation Week, so you actually have a bit of leeway if you need it.
Either way, we're here for you. We now present OnMilwaukee's 2016 Teacher Appreciation Day Week gift guide.
Basic office supplies
Teachers hear three questions from students every day: "Why am I still failing?," "When did you lose your hair?" and "Can I borrow a pencil?"
Pencils are just the graphite-filled tip of the iceberg, though. Kids also demand pens, paperclips, tape, band-aids, markers, working staplers, sticky notes, tissues, highlighters and paper – lots and lots of paper. Lined paper. Printer paper. Construction paper. Toilet paper. I mean, there are only so many times teachers can say, "Paper doesn't grow on trees, you know!"
Many of these things are hard to get at school, especially this time of year when initial orders have run out and school budgets are drier than this columnist's sense of humor. So your local teacher will appreciate you tremendously if you send your child to school this week with a neatly wrapped box of office supplies to get her and her students through the remaining weeks of school.
A massage gift certificate
You may be fully aware that teachers get their summers off and really only work like five hours a day, if that, with lots of "PD days" with no students where they probably just drink margaritas all day. But it may surprise you to learn that despite all of that luxury time and total lack of worry over money, retirement, ever getting fired or health care – because of those massive salaries, tenure and Cadillac benefits! – some teachers still feel stress. I know, I didn't believe it at first either, but apparently this is true!
I know that when I'm stressed, nothing helps like a good massage. And I don't know a single teacher who would turn down the chance to spend an hour, alone, in a quiet room with someone gently kneading away all the knots in her back and shoulders. Indeed, I know one teacher who names those knots after specific students! "Ahhh, there goes Jeremy," she will say as her therapist's elbow digs deep into the tough knots of painful stress.
A stress ball
Massages can be expensive, though. A quick, cheap way to help your local teachers deal with this so-called "stress" would be to send a stress ball instead. According to a cursory Internet search, it seems like stress balls can be had pretty cheap if you buy in bulk – and who doesn't like to buy in bulk? They come in all kinds of shapes, even the shape of an apple so your child can give "an apple" to the teacher just like in the olden days. Even one a day for the whole month of May!
Of course, an apple-shaped stress ball doesn't have the vitamins and nutrients to get a teacher through her day. And it certainly lacks one key nutrient: caffeine! So ...
I am not sure coffee delivery is even a thing, but it should be! Especially for teachers. Most of us don't even have to think about how we fit caffeine into our routines at work. There's the Keurig at Mary's desk, for example, and the Mr. Coffee in the break room that always seems to be full of the drink of the gods anytime our Styrofoam cups or "No. 1 in Sales, No. 1 in Our Hearts" mugs need refilling. Just push back from the ol' cubicle, stroll over and top off.
But apparently teachers can't just wander off from their classrooms when they need coffee! And the school boards won't let them have appliances like refrigerators or coffee makers in their rooms. I did not know that until I started researching this list. So if your local coffee establishment doesn't offer delivery, you might consider organizing the other moms and dads to drop off a hot cuppa several times throughout the day.
Of course, the coffee delivery presents the corollary problem of teachers' having to go to the bathroom and that same issue of not being able to sneak away. But, you know, one thing at a time.
Here's a fun one. They have this new watch that constantly records the noise around you on a 60-second loop. If you gave one of these to your child's teacher for Teacher Appreciation Day this year, they would love you forever.
It works by giving the wearer a chance to hit a button and save the last minute's worth of conversation, to be replayed later. No more repeating directions over and over for the knuckleheads not paying attention the first seven times. No more worry about overbearing parents insisting that goodness, no, their son just could not possibly have said such a naughty thing. No more needing to ask, rhetorically, "What did I just say?" since it's right there to be replayed!
The Harry Potter Time-Turner
Hermione Granger put this to great use in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," basically letting her be in two places at once several times a day to get things done. Imagine what your teachers could get done with this ability! Not just being able to work one-on-one with the struggling students while leading the rest of the class in learning activities – which would be pretty cool – but exciting things, too. Things like taking courses to maintain their licenses, or grading piles of student work, or planning to differentiate instruction for the eight or ten levels of students in their full-inclusion classrooms, or stuff like IEP, PLP, SLO, PPG, RTI, LEP, SBG, CCSS and other alphabet nonsense.
The fact that this device is completely fiction is hardly an excuse. If you really appreciate your kid's teachers enough, you will find a way to make it happen.
A hug and a vote
In all seriousness, teachers have had it rough lately. They're leaving the profession in record numbers, and there's not much enthusiasm among the young to replace them. This is not just here in Wisconsin, home of Act 10 and Mark Belling, but all across the country. Even non-traditional programs like Teach for America can't get enough recruits.
This is not because something has suddenly appeared in the water or the chemtrails finally started working. No, it's because of systematic choices made by politicians of various stripes (but mostly one stripe) at various levels of government over the past thirty years to weaken the autonomy and demean the authority and professionalism of America's teachers. Someone coming into the profession out of college today has never known, as a student or as a teacher-in-training, an education world without grueling standardized tests, shrinking resources, imposed curriculum and "accountability" measures that do less to show how well a teacher teaches than what zip code the students live in.
Think about this the next time you're in the voting booth. Think about this the next time you see a teacher friend. Think about this the next time you talk to your child about how their day at school was and realize the teacher just did all of that five times that day with 179 other kids, too.
And appreciate that even after all of that, the teacher will be there again tomorrow because they care about the future of your child as much as you do.