Happy World Teachers’ Day: Why and How to Celebrate

Teachers and administrators: October 5 is a day to celebrate the educators who once affected you in some way as a student—to show gratitude to those you once aspired to be. It’s a time to reflect on the teachers who were there for learning moments that defined your classroom experiences—even years ago—when you finally grasped a challenging concept with a feeling of accomplishment.

It’s also a day for you to realize how you may now impact students in the same way.

World Teachers’ Day is an annual celebration across the globe. But what does this day represent? Let’s answer some questions about its significance.

What is World Teachers’ Day?

World Teachers’ Day has been held every year on October 5 since 1994 to honor the anniversary of the 1966 adoption of the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. The Recommendation established benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers, according to UNESCO, and set standards for their training and continuing education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions.

UNESCO holds World Teachers’ Day in partnership with UNICEF, UNDP, the International Labour Organization, and Education International. Around the world, you can celebrate the protection of the rights and status of teachers while aiming to attract newcomers to the field despite the challenges educators currently face, including low pay and teacher shortages at K-12 districts nationwide. The day also honors teachers in light of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, which defines access to an education and quality teachers as crucial to fulfilling the UN’s Education 2030 agenda.

World Teachers’ Day is an opportunity for you and your students to reflect on the role that educators have played in your life, and to consider ways to continue inspiring your own K-12 students each and every day in the classroom.

What is this year’s theme?

This year’s universal World Teachers’ Day theme is “The Right to Education Means the Right to a Qualified Teacher.” According to UNESCO, the theme reminds individuals around the world that access to a K-12 education can’t be accomplished without “the right to trained and qualified teachers.” The 2018 theme also coincides with the 70th anniversary of the 1948 signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which cites education as a fundamental right.

How is World Teachers' Day celebrated around the world?

An international conference for education leaders and experts is typically held, this year in Paris, France, from Thursday, October 4 to Friday, October 5. 

Events may also be held in your own city or country or even virtually. Beyond that, in 2017 Education International published a list on its website—along with other information—depicting how WTD is celebrated worldwide. Last year, for example, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation awarded the CTF Norm Goble World Teachers’ Day Award to UNNOEH, the Union Nationale des Normaliens/Normaliennes et Éducateurs/Éducatrices d’Haïti. CTERA, an Argentinian labor union, also published a letter from General Secretary Sonia Alesso, which highlighted the link between education and politics, stating, “…an education project that wants to foster democracy and empowerment has to be reflected in politics, with the guarantee of free quality public education as a social and human right.”

How can I celebrate World Teachers’ Day?

Aside from seeking out seminars in your community or webinars that explore relevant K-12 issues, think back to the moment you realized you wanted to be a teacher. Was there anybody in particular who served as your inspiration? Consider reaching out and letting them know they had a powerful effect on your life and career choice. 

Perhaps you can even ask your own students to think back to their favorite teacher—besides you, of course—and let him or her know why their past interactions were so meaningful. See if they can get creative, maybe by creating and designing a personal card or writing a poem expressing their gratitude. Even a simple "thank you" can make a teacher's day.

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