Women Validating Women: Celebrating Mother’s Day and Teacher Appreciation Week

I’ve been in a rotten mood this week because I want to know who’s idea it was to make National Teacher Appreciation Week the week before Mother’s Day?  In a profession that is dominated by women and in a society that traditionally trains females to be the ones to recognize and appreciate others, it feels a little silly as I watch myself and the women around me, running around appreciating each other.

Now, don’t get me wrong, heavens knows teachers need to be appreciated.  We should have a whole month, a whole year to appreciate them (and give them all a raise).  But, I’m struck by the incongruity of both Mother’s Day and Teacher Appreciation Week as I see that the primary appreciative participants are women.

During a week, I’m helping my husband plan Mother’s Day dinner for our mothers at our house, help my kids make Mother’s Day cards for their grandmas, great-grandmas, and aunts w/o children, and well, deal with my own ambivalence about the holiday, I have the added layer of activities that my kids (i.e. me) are being asked to participate in for Teacher Appreciation:

  1. Monday: Donate money for muffins and coffee for teachers.
  2. Tuesday: Bring a flower from your garden or a flower shop to your teacher (don’t forget music, P.E., computer teachers and aides!).
  3. Wednesday: Decorate a paper flower petal for your teacher
  4. Thursday: Scrapbook a page for the director of the preschool
  5. Friday: Write a thank you note to your teacher (don’t forget music, P.E., computer teachers and aides!)

As my son hands his flower to his teacher Tuesday morning, she says, “Thank you so much!  I was the flower lady in my son’s class this morning, too.”  I, then, feel a little deflated and wonder if we’re so insecure in our roles that we women have to run around appreciating each other to get some sense of validation because though our society says, “We value teachers.  We value mothers,” really, truly, as a society, do we? 

I wonder what we can do to raise the next generation of sons and daughters to show appreciation to all their teachers and the women who raise them.  Can our society ever give more than lip service to such feelings of appreciation?  What would that look like?

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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17 Responses

  1. Deborah says:

    Yeah, we don’t bother with it at my school. The PA brought in a lovely lunch for the teachers a month or so ago, and we called it a day.

    Here are the “teacher appreciation” gifts I actually keep (since I’m often asked this).

    1) Thoughtful notes or e-mails at the end of the year, sharing how they perceive their child has grown in my class. Love it when kids write such notes, too.

    2) My gift suggestion (when parents ask me): Have your child pick out and donate a book to the classroom library, with his/her name and why they like the book written in the front cover. Seriously, it’s the perfect gift. Bypasses the cutesiness, gets kids thinking/writing about literature, grows the classroom library (saving me $$), and inspires future readers. I really really don’t need anymore mugs! Seriously, I don’t mind when children make cute little gifts for me, but am a bit bewildered when parent committees make such gifts (?).

    The most natural time for forma expressions of appreciation is the end of the year — marking the end of an intense, 9-month relationship. I think a spring “day” to appreciate teachers is a little weird — and observed by parents more out of duty/guilt than anything. Blah. Year-end expressions of gratitude make ritualistic sense for all parties involved.

  2. EmilyCC says:

    Excellent suggestions, Deborah! Now I know what I’m getting my kids’ teachers at the end of the year. Books for the classroom. Brilliant!

  3. corktree says:

    As I was standing in the card isle just today, I found myself thinking who else besides my own mother I should give a card to. My sister? My grandmothers? My MIL? All of a sudden it seemed overwhelming, and I had a similar thought. Was I feeling a need to compensate for people that I worried wouldn’t feel appreciated enough? But why was that MY job? I don’t mean to sound selfish, but it just seemed overdone. In the end I only bought one card. I’m okay with it.

    Thanks for the thoughts on teacher gifts, Deborah. I want to show appreciation, but I agree that a random week doesn’t seem to be the natural extension of gratitude. I love the books idea.

  4. Mraynes says:

    I had this same thought when I found out that Breast Cancer Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness share the same month. Seriously, is it a conspiracy to minimize women to one week, one month?

    Your question of whether society really appreciates women as much as they say they do is a profound one! I’m of the opinion that society doesn’t otherwise they would back up their rhetoric with maternity leave, social security benefits for SAHMs and family friendly work policies. Society and the Mormon church play the same game: praise women to the hilt, refuse to make any substantive changes that would actually improve women’s lives and hope that women don’t understand the difference between words and actions. (stepping off soapbox now)

    Anyway, really wonderful post, Emily!

  5. EmilyCC says:

    corktree, this echoes my thoughts exactly: “Was I feeling a need to compensate for people that I worried wouldn’t feel appreciated enough?”

    I feel like a grouch, but I am conflicted because I feel like there are people for both holidays that SO deserve to be appreciated, and if I don’t, who will?

    mraynes, thanks! Yes, it’s strange that in a rather affluent country and Church, we prefer to give empty praise rather than actually practicing true equality. I suppose the U.S. culture is what has heavily influenced the Church’s.

  6. anita says:

    i am so with you!! our kids’ teachers this week are getting from each of our 4 kids: monday–note from kids (and parents!), tuesday–wear teacher’s favorite color, wednesday–bring wish list item (kleenex, bandaids, etc), thursday–especially good manners, and friday–treat day. and all this, not just the week of mother’s day, but also just a few weeks before the end of the year gift! (not to mention while i’m trying to supervise this week alone the production of: a gila monster report (kindergarten, bring in a treat or coloring page for the whole class with report!), a south african penguin report for 2nd grade, a stage-fighting powerpoint presentation for 5th grade, and a 7th grade powerpoint on brussels.) school is so much work for the parents these days!

  7. E says:

    My daughter’s teacher requested Mountain Dew, so we picked it up for her on the way to school. I really do appreciate her, but it does seem like a fairly contrived event.

  8. EmilyCC says:

    anita, I couldn’t agree with you more (but darn it, I was hoping that school was work for me now because my kids are 5 and 3! It sounds like it doesn’t really end!).

    E, a nice gift! “Contrived” is a great descriptor here. I think this week feels particularly contrived for me because we’re in the Western U.S., and in 2 weeks, we’ll be done with school. That’s when I’m more focused on showing my appreciation.

  9. mb says:

    I like Deborah’s comment.

    It occurs to me that if Father’s day and Oil Rig Workers Appreciation Week (a profession dominated by men) were the same week, we wouldn’t have this problem.

    All these scheduled activities to mesh with a celebratory week are usually thought up and organized by us women, many of whom love thinking up these sorts of things to keep things lively for the kids and each other.

    Personally, if it floats your boat and you enjoy it, participate. If your child wants to do the whole celebratory routine, calmly help her to do so and enjoy it. If not, that’s fine too. That part is not the part that teaches children to appreciate others.

    Whether or not you enjoy the hoopla, simply be sure you are the sort of person who is generally appreciative and is verbal about that appreciation on a pleasantly regular basis. Express appreciation directly to the person you appreciate and also to others. If you want your children to become regularly appreciative of all the women who do good in their lives, developing the habit of expressing those sentiments regularly and honestly both in writing and verbally is vital. Your children will pick up on the pleasure that brings to life.

    Oh, and helping them to write thank you notes when they receive a gift or particular assistance with something is helpful to them too.

  10. EmilyCC says:

    mb, some great advice. Thanks!

  11. Kirsten says:

    I don’t mind Teacher Appreciation day. I feel really grateful for the amazing teachers my kids have. Yes, at the elementary level, teachers are overwhelmingly female, but in the middle school and high school that does change. I get very little “face time” with my middle school aged daughter’s teachers and chairing the Staff Appreciation committee this year has allowed me to get to know them better and express my appreciation for the hard job they have of teaching hormonally challenged kids. We put on luncheons and bring treats periodically to the staff room– remember that these teachers are not inundated with gifts at the holidays and the end of the year. They are always grateful and we receive heart-felt thank you notes back to the PTO.
    There cannot be enough gratitude in this world. A simple thank you can go a long way!

  12. EmilyCC says:

    Kirsten, thanks for sharing your experience this week. Your last two sentences really resonate with me, which is why I keep trying to show appreciation to teachers and mothers.

    As I get Mother’s Day gifts from my kids (which were actually heavily supervised by their teachers) and they get gifts from my kids (that were heavily supervised by me), I guess I just worry if I/we are teaching kids to be appreciative of the work of parents and teachers in a larger, more societal sense rather than simply being appreciative to the person who teaches/raises us on an individual level.

  13. MsChel says:

    I’m slightly surprised at the extent of complaints from mature mormon women about expressing gratitude. We should know better. The energy of gratitude is uplifting, fights depression and sadness and benefits us all. It doesn’t have to be elaborate and contrived, but can be a fantastic teaching experience for our children. I am thrilled that for a week of school they have the opportunity to think of someone else besides themselves. My children have had the opportunity to express gratitude each day of this week with simple tokens of love like a flower, a note, or some chocolate.

    Both Mother’s Day and Teacher Appreciation week give us the opportunity to express gratitude for those people in our lives who have taught us and made a difference in our lives. And WE BECOME BETTER for having recognized these people regardless of the gives that we give them. That’s what is about.

  14. EmilyCC says:

    MsChel, I’m surprised that you’d feel it necessary to lecture mature Mormon women on the importance of gratitude.

    Because our Church is so good at teaching the benefits and importance of gratitude, I believe the benefits of celebrating Mother’s Day and Teacher Appreciation Week are implied by my post (otherwise, I would scrap both holidays). So, I agree with your sentiments here but hope that you’ll try to understand where I’m coming from.

    I had hoped to convey my concern that we women are good at gratitude, so good in fact, that perhaps we’re not allowing others to jump in with their show of gratitude. Instead, we dictate to our children, “Write a note to your mother. Get a flower for your teacher.” Some of us excuse our spouses by creating our own Mother’s Day celebrations, and we continue to excuse society at large by continuing to allow discriminatory practices for mothers and inadequate pay for teachers.

  15. Olive says:

    I agree with you, Emily. I found it funny, but also kind of sad/strange, that most of the moms I know actually told their husbands in advance what gift they wanted for Mother’s Day (ahem, me included). Sure, we all laughed about it yesterday, but it IS kind of stupid. Isn’t the point for THEM to be thinking of ways to show THEIR gratitude? My husband procrastinated until the morning of, and hastily bought the (online) gift I had hinted at two weeks earlier (emailed him the link). I could hear him typing at the computer while I was getting out of bed, and I knew that’s what he was doing. It made me a bit sad. Sort of highlights at how pointless the whole exercise is.

    Mschel…its not that we’re NOT grateful, its the whole song and dance of being told to be grateful, and how to express it. Doesn’t it ever feel a little silly that we’re all running around buying gifts for each other? The whole point is to appreciate moms/women, and yet, its women themselves who are planning and executing everything. So we’re grateful for ourselves?!

    I’m so glad our school doesn’t do the whole week long thing. Honestly, I don’t see how a bunch of kids wearing my favorite color and 30 things of chocolate (ugh) would make me feel appreciated. :/ The PTO does a lunch for the teachers, and if anyone wants to do something personal, that’s their prerogative. I love the idea of buying a book for the teacher’s class library! We usually get them a gift card for frozen yogurt or a nearby restaurant.

  16. EmilyCC says:

    Olive, love your name and your comments here. Thanks!

  1. May 7, 2010

    […] I’m not the only mother who is less than enthusiastic about Mothers’ Day. A colleague once remarked that she found it embarrassing to be honored for just doing her job. […]

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