I come from a family of teachers. My parents, countless aunts, uncles and cousins and even many friends – all career teachers. Which probably explains why I am NOT one myself. I know too much. And folks, it is NOT the job for me. Much like nursing or firefighting or being a police officer or soldier. Those aren’t jobs that sound fun to me. They all sound stressful and scary and really, really hard. And I’m certain that’s why the people who do choose those jobs deserve every shred of respect and thanks we can muster. And just when you think you’ve given all you’ve got, give a little more for the teachers.
Where do you suppose our nurses, firefighters, police and military got their knowledge and skill? Someone had to teach them. Several someones, in fact. Have you ever considered the number of teachers you’ve had in your own lifetime? I bet you remember your favorites, and your not-so-favorites. I bet at least one made a difference in your life somehow. Other than our family, who do we have direct contact with in our lives that makes a bigger impact than teachers? The list is incredibly short.
Now think about your children, or grandchildren, who are in school right now. Our kids spend a lot of hours with their teachers, sometimes more than we get to as parents. Think of what that teacher is preparing your child and all the other kids in the class for. Practical things like reading and math of course, but also music appreciation and art and how to get along with others. Things like hygiene and manners and just plain paying attention. Teachers are sometimes the only willing ear for a child to voice their fears or secrets. Pats on the back from their teacher are the only ones some kids receive. That is a heavy burden for anyone to bear, knowing that not only does a child’s future depend on what they can teach them, but what they can instill in them. Like confidence, or trust, or empathy.
It annoyed me as a kid, and it still annoys me now, to hear people complain about the “easy hours” and summers off that teachers enjoy. All I know is, teaching is far from “easy.” It is a grueling profession. Teaching as a job doesn’t just happen during school hours. Teachers have to be politicians, counselors, disciplinarians and role models. They spend a lot of time on behind the scenes stuff, like lesson plans and bulletin boards and class preparation. And then there are papers to grade. The endless papers! My mom taught way back in the olden days before computers, you see. All paper, all the time. I became an expert with a red pen by age twelve. I also happen to think that if my job were to spend six hours a day in a room with 25 kids, trying to teach them the skills they’re going to need for life, my ongoing sanity would probably require summers off. Don’t you remember even as a kid being SO glad when school was out? Don’t think for one second that teachers aren’t just as glad, or possibly more so.
So yes, I know too much. But it’s a good knowledge to have. It lends me a deeper understanding of what my children’s teachers are dealing with and the things I can do to make things easier on them. It gives me an idea of what the curriculum will be at each stage of my own kids’ education, so that hopefully I can supplement their teachers’ efforts with help at home. But mostly it has given me the certainty that teachers are human beings with a really tough job. A job that I don’t want, yet remains vital to the functioning of society. How could I not honor that? How could I not recognize a teacher’s willingness to do what I will not? Our society has rightly rallied around our troops, our firefighters and our police officers. Let’s rally around our teachers. We absolutely CANNOT do without them.