This month, social media feeds will be flooded with memes for teacher appreciation and posts about how vital teachers are to our society. At the same time, Fund for Teachers will hand $1.7 million in checks to 396 teachers for summer fellowships they designed. The contrast between memes & money puts into sharp relief America’s attitude toward those with whom we entrust our children: teacher appreciation not validation.
Meet our new grant recipients and learn about their summer itineraries here.
The Latin word part “val” means strength and worth. Consider other words with that root: value, valor, valiant. Even the sound of these words evokes fortitude. Validation carries that same weight. When one validates something or someone, there’s an active acknowledgement associated with seeing, hearing, and knowing. In this light, appreciating something is tantamount to a thumb’s up emoji.
Fund for Teachers validates teachers by trusting them to design their own professional development in the form of summer fellowships. We put no limits on what or where teachers learn. We simply support their pursuit of new knowledge, insight and experiences – with $36 million in grants since 2001. In doing so, we communicate that teachers are professionals worthy of investment.
What does Teacher Validation Look Like?
For our grant recipients last summer, it ranged from documenting the Six Essential Elements of Geography throughout Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to examining across Alabama various methods of civic engagement utilized in the Civil Rights Movement. It also looks like relying on our Educator Advisory Council for programmatic design to amplify our impact on teachers. And funding Innovation Circles led by Fellows and composed of Fellows to deepen learning around topics in teaching while building community.
But validation doesn’t have to be synonymous with funding. (Our Fellows regularly report simply knowing their ideas merited recognition means as much as the grants.) Validating teachers as professionals can also look like:
- Acknowledging their dedication to assessing and responding to students’ needs, and not just
the academic ones.
- Affirming their commitment to addressing learning goals in ways that leverage students’
heritage and lived experiences.
- Applauding their courage to be bodyguards who protect students from bullets. And, yes,
- Advocating for pay increases with your local districts.
And how can we do these things? You’d be amazed at how far an old-fashioned, analog, personalized note can go. Beats a social media meme any day.