For one week every May across the nation, the National PTA celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week.  The basic idea is to show teachers how much they mean to schools, students, and communities.

At Robinson, my old school, this usually took the form of a teacher luncheon catered from a local restaurant, door prizes at said luncheon, trinkets in our mailboxes, and things like that.  (Teacher Appreciation Week usually lined up with the days leading up to the AP exam, so it seems like the very least they could’ve done was throw in an open bar at the luncheon, but beggars can’t be choosers.)  Those things were enjoyable, but it was a bummer when that one week in May came to an end and our fringe benefits dried up.

Now, I should issue a disclaimer: I don’t teach so that I can get free stuff, even though I’m apparently working for free.  I hope it goes without saying that I would enjoy teaching regardless of what snacks or stuff I get from the school community.  I am also not indicting every parent I interacted with at Robinson; I had plenty of parents – especially in quiz bowl – who would’ve given me the proverbial shirt off their backs.  But the parental involvement at RTHS in its first days has been nothing short of extraordinary.

The first time I saw such unbelievable selflessness was when we moved into the building in early August.  We had all of our tables, desks, chairs, etc. on site, but they had to be moved from the still-unfinished wing of the building into the newly-completed classrooms.  At 7:30 on a Saturday morning, dozens of students and parents (and even a few grandparents) were on site, with dollies and other equipment in tow.  Some of the volunteers were responsible for moving the furniture in, and then other students and parents would come in behind them and clean it all with supplies they had brought from home and donated to the cause.  I was terrified at the thought of having to enlist people with helping me set up my room, but it was 95 percent done by the time our teacher workdays began.  And considering how much work we were having to do to set up this new curriculum and teaching style, that was absolutely huge.

What remains of Deb’s wish list outside the English classroom. Mine wasn’t half this creative; sometimes I wonder if she’s a closet elementary school teacher.

When we were preparing our classrooms for the first days of school, Eric told us to put up our wish lists on the wall near our classrooms.  Having no idea what that was, I inquired further.  At Raleigh Charter, he said, the teachers would make stick-it notes listing what they needed for their classrooms and put them up for the parents to see at the open house.  Parents would take stick-it notes they could fulfill, and send the requested stuff with their kids sometime during the first week.  Having worked at a school where parents didn’t attend the open houses, let alone buy me crap, I was more than a little skeptical.

Despite my doubts, I made 25 stick-it notes – a few of them were for consumable sanitary stuff like Clorox wipes, Kleenex, and hand sanitizer, and then I put up a few asking for other classroom supplies like power strips (needed at a tech-heavy school like this one), rulers and yardsticks, markers, etc.

And sure enough, 21 of the 25 notes got taken.  I have so much Purel I don’t know where to put it all.  Stuff is still rolling in, too – just this afternoon I received a box of plastic silverware I asked for.  But now, it’s not supplies that we’re getting on a regular basis – it’s food.

Yesterday morning, a parent came in asking where our break room was located.  After I pointed it out to her, she walked out of the building and came back a minute later with a spread of foodstuffs that are torpedoing my attempts at weight loss – brownies, coffee cake, cookies, and some Dunkin Donuts coffee.  (Coffee, by the way, is the only thing Dunkin Donuts makes that doesn’t suck out loud.  There.  I said it.)  Yesterday wasn’t the first time this had happened – during our move-in days and workdays we were showered with pizza, doughnuts, and plenty of other stuff.

After gorging myself on the coffee cake – and before the sugar crash came on – I looked at Mila, our office manager, and jokingly said, “Well, all we need now is a Keurig machine and we’ll be set.”

I came in this morning, went in the break room to put my lunch in the fridge, and guess what was sitting on the counter.  Looks like I don’t have to make and bring my own coffee every morning anymore.  That means five more minutes of sleep.  Win.

Not a day has gone by in the last few weeks when I haven’t felt honored and fortunate to work at a school where the community is so deeply invested.  Every teacher has those moments when they feel less than appreciated, but I don’t think anyone at RTHS will be feeling that way any time soon.

I bet Teacher Appreciation Week here is gonna be out of control.

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