Last night was the Ice Cream Social over at my daughter's elementary school. This is an annual event that has evolved over the years into something way beyond ice cream (and there was plenty of ice cream, six or seven flavors in fact).
After savoring our ice cream in the cafeteria, we walked next door to the gym, where the book fair was held with probably hundreds of books, computer software, and educational toys for sale.
At the appointed time, our PTA president took the microphone and recognized several PTA volunteers, and next year's PTA board was elected by acclamation. With several hundred pupils and parents in the gym, it was noisy, but it was a joyful noise. Several alumni, now in middle school or beyond, made an appearance. Parents conversed, some with their preschoolers in tow.
Then over a dozen staff and faculty took the stage, with our principal on lead guitar, for a rock-n-roll revue. One of the janitors was in full Las Vegas Elvis regalia, complete with white rhinestone-studded jump suit, wig, and oversized gold-rimmed sunglasses. The female teachers, dressed in white t-shirts and feather boas, sang in the chorus. The music teacher played keyboard, while other staff covered bass guitar, drums, and vocals. They sang a little Beach Boys, The Bangles, and of course Elvis. Our D.A.R.E. officer, whom the kids love and respect, rocked to the music. The kids clapped, waved their hands, and got up front at the end to dance with their teachers. The parents laughed as they recognized the songs and cringed at the occasional sour note.
The school is a special world unto itself, with alumni coming back to visit and two teachers who are also former pupils, active parent volunteers, a caring staff, high academic achievement, and a principal and teachers we will never forget. We all have sort of grown up together over these last several years. It's no wonder there is so much weeping at each year's fifth grade "graduation" event.
Here, as at your kids' school I am sure, teaching is more than pedagogy, and it's not something teachers do to get rich. As the song goes, how can you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume? This Teacher Appreciation Week (it was actually last week), we put aside the politics, curriculum and instruction, funding, testing and assessment, accountability, and the rest of it, and simply say "Thank you, teachers, more than our words can say." Be sure to thank a teacher at your local school.