World Gratitude Day is Saturday, September 21st. According to the United Nations Meditation Group (the people who founded the event), “World Gratitude Day presents an award to someone who we feel has done something outstanding in the spirit of Globalism.”
So with that in mind, thank you fellow world language teachers! No, I really MEAN it! I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of you all. It has unfortunately become cliché how difficult teachers have it. And even when we love what we do, it is still often a thankless and tiring job.
Imagine you are a rock/country/chanson/vallenato/fill-in-the-genre, SUPERSTAR! Millions of adoring fans listen to your music. Thousands upon thousands buy tickets to your sold-out concerts. You are adored and idolized by the masses! Even still, getting up on stage is still frightening. (thus the term, “stage-fright”) But with the adoration, cheers, fan-mail, (and millions of dollars) you find a way to fight through the anxiety and perform night after night for the screaming fans.
Now, let’s take away the money. Fans can get your music for free, and tickets are given away to whomever wants them. People still love you, but they don’t have to give up any monetary means to hear your music or see you in concert. If they miss your performance- no loss for them. They can catch the next one for free, or download the album for nothing at any time they wish. Still, you find a way to perform because your fans love your songs. They love your message. They love the feeling you give them when you are in front of them.
NOW, take away the adulation. People couldn’t care less if they hear your music or not. They do not have to pay for it, nor would they if they were asked to. Your performance is a distraction from the rest of their lives. You are greeted with scowls and under-the-breath comments when you take the stage.
This, unfortunately can be how teaching feels for some of us. Getting up in front of a class of students can be nerve-wracking. Experienced teachers still get stage-fright (just ask most experienced teachers the night before or morning of the first day of school every year!) We can be at the top of our game, give the “show” of our lives, but still feel unappreciated. Students fight for reasons to be somewhere else. Even if they enjoy our classes, we often go days, weeks, or months without a word of thanks from students. At least we have the money. (oh, wait….)
Okay, have I depressed you enough? Sorry about that. But guess what? You ARE appreciated! Seriously! By whom you ask?
By your fellow world language teachers who KNOW you are fighting the good fight! By your family who understands your sacrifices in providing safety, security, and sustenance. And most importantly… by your students. Teenage brains are often still in egocentric “me-me-me” mode. They don’t often realize the effect their actions (or inactions) cause. But trust me, they tell their friends about the “cool” German teacher who sings songs with them. The hilarious French teacher that tells sly jokes with a completely dead-pan expression. The insane Spanish teacher who dresses up in crazy costumes and makes every class not seem like learning at all. The caring Latin teacher that is the only adult that stops and really listens to their answer when they are asked, “how are you today?”
And on those amazing occasions where students do tell you how awesome you are, give you a thank-you card, or leave a seemingly insignificant treat or gift on your desk… WOW! Your heart could almost burst!! Your cheeks fill with color and heat. Your eyes seem to instantly acquire some crazy eye-watering allergy. When a parent emails you to tell you that they can’t get their kids to stop singing songs in Spanish. When the principal stops by for a walkthrough, stays the whole period, and leaves saying, “Boy, I wish you could have been MY French teacher!” Those are the thank-you’s that you deserve. Not once in a while, but everyday. Maybe even every period.
But, if those gratitudes came so often, would they really be that special? Wouldn’t every student telling you ‘thanks’ as they walked out become forgettable? Would the 41st thank-you cupcake in a week really taste as great? (Yeah… okay, it would! Sorry, bad example…)
So enjoy the seemingly random shows of appreciation you get throughout your day, year, or teaching career. It seems life/God/Allah/Yahweh/Mother Earth/fate gives us what we can handle and pats us on the back as much as we need. And if you haven’t gotten one recently… THANK YOU!
I see you.
I appreciate you.
Keep fighting the good fight. What you do is worth it.
We world language teachers teach the world more than language.