As Shonda Rimes tweeted precisely 71 minutes into homeschooling her children, “Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.” Now that many students are home, teachers—by mandate or choice—are stepping up to work even harder and be more accessible than ever.
From creating GoFundMe campaigns to support their immigrant students to having spring break cancelled even as state governments consider cutting their pay, teachers are expected to overcome increasingly difficult obstacles. On top of that, plenty of students who rely on school for meals, stability, and structure are trying just as hard to adapt to unprecedented circumstances.
In honor of National Teacher’s Day on May 5, we’re suggesting some ways you can support teachers and education.
Support teachers and classrooms
Times are tough for a lot of us right now. But if you’re in a place to give financial support, consider donating to one of these organizations:
- Adopt A Classroom.org raises funds for high needs schools.
- DonorsChoose is a classroom funding site for public school teachers, enabling them to collect funds to ensure they have the books, materials, and supplies necessary to keep students learning at home.
- The National Education Association (NEA) accepts donations that help provide funding to public school students and educators across the United States.
- Treasures4Teachers collects monetary and material donations that are distributed to schools in Tempe, AZ, and has opportunities for volunteers.
- Books for Africa distributes books to learners across the African continent. They are accepting donations of funds and books.
- The International Book Project promotes literacy by sending books to schools and organizations across the world. They accept in-person book donations at their center in Lexington, KY, or monetary donations online.
Support educators without digging into your bank account
Don’t have the funds to give? No problem! There are many other ways to show your support for educators:
- Use social media to show gratitude. Thankful for a teacher who made a major impact in your life? Or maybe someone who is the reason your child now understands division? Give them a shout-out on social media. NEA is promoting #ThankATeacher and has a few images you can use to recognize deserving teachers. Not a fan of social media? Send a note in the mail.
- Regift a gift card. Know you’re never going to use that Subway gift card or visit MassageEnvy? Consider passing the fortune along to a teacher who would appreciate it.
- Speak up. NEA’s Education Funding & Budget page has information about education related bills in Congress and forms you can use to share your stance by emailing representatives. There’s also a form you can use to ask Congress to relieve student debt and support higher education and information about #RedforEd, a movement you can join to help schools get the resources students need to learn.
- Volunteer your time, K-12. Reach out to a school and offer to give students a presentation in your area of expertise. If the students are younger, it may be more appropriate to read a book. Tell guidance counselors you’re available to offer feedback on personal statements and scholarship applications.
- Volunteer your time, higher education. Contact academic advisors, multicultural affairs professionals, career counselors and others at a university of your choice (alma maters are always a good place to start). Offer to speak with students about your career trajectory and answer any questions they may have. You could explore how your salient identities have shown up along your professional journey or share tips on networking.
- ... And beyond. Visit Idealist’s Volunteer+ search tool to learn more about education related volunteer opportunities. Start your search by selecting the Virtual, Children & Youth, and Education filters.
How to help students directly
Maybe you want more personal interaction with students and educators, but you’re not sure how to achieve it while social distancing. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to connect online:
- Connect students with jobs and internships. Talk with people in your network to learn who is hiring and share that information with guidance and career counselors.
- Contribute to an emergency relief fund. Many universities have development and alumni offices that are raising emergency relief scholarships for students. Visit institutional websites to learn how to contribute funds that will benefit students directly.
- Be a mentor or tutor. Let guidance and career counselors know you’re available and eager to offer virtual mentorship.
- Give or lend funds directly to students. GoFundMe has thousands of learners who are looking for financial support to support their studies. If you’re not in a position to donate, but able to give small loans, use Kiva to lend money to students who need small loans for educational purposes.
- Donate food to food pantries. Students can’t learn if their basic needs aren’t met. Read our guide to learn how you can help, then find a pantry near you. No Kid Hungry also has suggestions on steps you can take to combat student hunger.
Looking for more ways to help?
Check idealist.org to find more virtual action opportunities that support education, and connect with like-hearted others in the Idealists of the World Facebook Group.
Sheena Daree Miller is based in Brooklyn and divides her time between working in faculty development at a university and managing a black heritage center at a library. She is committed to promoting equity, with an emphasis on supporting graduating students and career changers.