I love my kids’ teachers. I feel so fortunate that of all the professions these smart, talented, caring women and men could have chosen, they picked one in which they directly influence children, my children.
With so much public discussion these days on reforming tenure and implementing merit pay to weed out “bad” teachers, I’d like to shift the focus for a moment to the classrooms where good teachers are doing good work. Because in my experiences both years ago as a high school English teacher and now as a parent of a 5th, 3rd, and 1st grader, I see way more hard-working, dedicated, passionate teachers than not.
Teaching is a true calling. Teachers don’t go into the profession for the benefits, vacations, or summers off. These factors don’t pop to the forefront when deciding teaching vs. other more lucrative careers.
It’s about a love of a field of study—literature, writing, science, art, music—and an inherent need and desire to share this passion with young people, hoping to instill a similar love or nurture a developing curiosity.
It’s about that moment when a child gets it—an “aha” flash in the eyes when he or she finally grasps a complicated concept or a heartfelt smile after reading aloud a touching story he or she wrote. Or the near-perfect execution of a piece of music after hours of practice. Or an exquisite work of art, culminating weeks of meticulous crafting.
Teaching is much more than the lessons. It’s about connecting with young people and witnessing their growth from September to June after many conversations both in and out of the classroom. It’s about watching a group of individuals come together in the intimacy of a shared space, forging relationships and friendships that may not have happened elsewhere.
It’s about learning as much from students—from their thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and experiences—as instructing them.
Teaching is so much more than a perceived six-hour a day job, 180 days a year. For most teachers, school doesn’t end with the last bell. There are after-school hours providing extra help to students in need. Hours a night preparing, tweaking lessons that didn’t quite work. Weekends grading piles of tests and papers. Lunch breaks responding to a parent’s e-mail or phone call.
I’ve seen the projects come home—a surprise traveling Flat Stanley from my sister-in-law in Seattle for my 1st grader; a science experiment dipping white flowers in brightly colored water from my 3rd grader; a plastered mummy sculpture from my 5th grader—evidence of critical, creative thinking and learning.
I recently volunteered in my son’s 1st grade class and sat on a blanket as he and three classmates shared their favorite lines from their favorite Dr. Seuss books, giggles abounding. His teacher moved fluidly from group to group, a wider smile across her face as she watched her charges in action, engaged and animated.
And it’s not just teachers in the classroom but all coaches, counselors, and instructors who serve as mentors to our youngsters. My 11-year-old daughter loves her dance teacher, can’t wait to get to her Saturday morning technique class. Katie is not only a role model but also an inspiration.
And the guidance counselor in our elementary school spent almost every morning before school with my 9-year-old daughter, helping her after a traumatic choking incident last summer. Together they constructed a Monopoly-style board game, complete with photos of every teacher in the school and detailed playing cards.
I just saw it hanging on the wall in our school the other day. I was blown away by the time and attention Ms. Ford gave my daughter, helping her move confidently through a difficult time in her life.
So as the school year winds down, I want to say thank you to all of the teachers in my children’s lives and to all educators out there.
Enjoy your summer recharging. You deserve it.