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It’s American Education Week

by Andrew Roush
american education week

Did you know that this week is American Education Week? If not, we understand. Suffice it to say that it’s a busy time. Busier than usual, in fact.

But perhaps that’s all the more reason to recognize public educators for the role they play in society. That’s what American Education Week is all about, according to the National Education Association (NEA).  Here’s how the NEA describes it:

Festivities honor the team of people who work in our nation’s public schools, everyone from the bus driver and classroom teacher to the cafeteria worker and administrative staff, plus countless others.

https://www.nea.org/resource-library/american-education-week-november-16-20-2020

In an editorial to her local newspaper, the Transylvania Times of North Carolina, retired educator Carol Hamann describes the event’s foundations:

Following World War I, it was revealed that 25 percent of drafters for the military conflict had been illiterate and 15 percent were physically unfit. In 1918, the wheels were set in motion to encourage public education by establishing an annual national celebration of the service of teachers and other educators to our country. The National Education Association and the American Legion sponsored the first event in December 1921. Later, many other organizations, including the U.S. Department of Education and the National Parent Teacher Association, joined the parade. Today, more than 20 organizations are officially involved. Since those early beginnings, the week before Thanksgiving has been known as National Education Week.

By the way, a letter to the editor of a local paper or news site can be a great way to spread the word, which is exactly what we’ll explore in the next section.

Honoring Educators 

NEA proposes a number of simple ways individuals can spread awareness and help celebrate public schools, their staff, educators, and students. 

  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper thanking public school educators, or encourage your local paper to write an editorial about public schools and American Education Week.
  • Have students write an essay, “What I Would Do if I Were the School Principal” or hold a poetry reading on the topic, “What I Like Best About My School.”
  • Have students make cards showing support for their educators.
  • Invite parents virtually into your classroom via video conference to read to students, talk about their career, or share other educational information outside the normal curriculum. If the parent is tech-savvy, have them record a video you can show.
  • Send or email preprinted “apple” papers with places for students to fill in favorite subject, best time of day, or what they liked about their classroom or teacher, and a section for parents to write their school memories. Share in class or online.
  • Be sure to recognize the work of educational support professionals by having teachers, students, and parents mail or email a thank you letter to ESPs in their schools. 
  • Give a social media shout out to ESPs who have been going above and beyond to help school communities during this pandemic. You can get creative through photos, videos, and more! Use #WeLoveOurESPs in your posts. 

A Weeklong Event

Further, you can break down activities by day, each with its own theme relating to the ecosystems and communities built around schools, like families, substitutes, and professional school staff. Who makes your education life easier? Let them know!

Here are the themes for each day, as explained by the Nebraska State Education Association:

  • Monday, Nov. 16: Kickoff Day. Across the country, schools will celebrate excellence in education by hosting kickoff events and activities.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 17: Parents Day. On this day, schools across the nation traditionally invite parents into the classroom to experience what the day is like for their child.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 18: Education Support Professionals Day: Celebrating the Education Support Professionals who keep schools running and students safe, healthy, and ready to learn.
  • Thursday, Nov. 19: Educator for a Day. In any other normal year, community leaders would be invited to experience the day as educators and experience the challenges of teaching and the needs of students, with the guidance of school employees.
  • Friday, Nov. 20: Substitute Educators Day. Substitute educators play a vital role in the maintenance and continuity of daily education. On this day, we celebrate their important contributions to education.

Recognition, Even in Tough Times

This year, the work being done by teachers — already a lot — seems even more. Across the nation, teachers and communities are looking at ways to support teachers, even when their work is as difficult and changing as it has been this year. 

Special consideration now might include ways to celebrate educators, colleagues, and students in new ways, ensuring safety whether celebrating in-person or digitally. Is your class, school, or district observing American Education week in new way this year?

In addition to the ideas shared by the NEA, feel free to be creative and find ways to express your gratitude. Other teachers can even be a great resource for ideas! Check out what folks are doing on social media in places like Pinterest.

Other Options

Many organizations nationwide take part in American Education Week. Check out information and resources from participating groups like the Pennsylvania State Education Association, Georgia Association of Educators, and Missouri NEA.

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