“The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.”–Dan Rather
Teacher Appreciation Day is May 3rd this year. It’s a time to remember all the teachers who touched our lives and the lives of our children – the teachers who made a positive difference.
It was 1966 and I was a high school freshman. In English 9, I had a young, idealistic teacher who ran her classroom with firm structure and discipline. She was engaging and interesting, but she also expected her students to meet her high standards, both academic and behavioral. Early in the year, she noticed that I was a bookworm who read indiscriminately. I desperately needed guidance in selecting my reading material. One day she called me up to her desk and handed me a book. “I think you’ll like this. Bring it back when you’re done and we’ll talk about it.” The book was The Hobbit, and I eventually went on to read just about everything that Tolkien wrote. And on it went – she fed me books, I read them, we talked about them, and my love of good literature was born. Mrs. Harrie gave me a gift that has been one of the joys of my life.
When others write about teachers who are special to them – teachers who changed their lives – here are some of the words they use: discipline, respect, confidence, challenge, connection, passion, determination, inspiration. These teachers are tough and they expect a lot, but they give a lot in return.
I personally have a big place in my heart for elementary school teachers. They teach every subject, have almost no planning time, and are responsible for classes that include everyone from gifted kids to intellectually disabled kids. On top of it all, they love and nurture children – tying shoes, giving hugs, wiping noses, helping with bathroom accidents, and opening milk cartons. I originally wanted to be a first grade teacher, but I found that I just didn’t have the energy to do what they do every day!
At all levels of school, teachers love the unlovable, hug the dirty, and provide stability amid the chaos of many children’s lives. Teachers buy children clothes and school supplies, teach manners at the lunch table, give out books at Christmas time, and celebrate birthdays at school when parents are too busy.
Middle and high school teachers are mentors and cheerleaders for students, and sometimes even provide a safe haven in the middle of the night. I know several teachers who have taken students into their homes to live with them during a family crisis. I know several adults from very troubled backgrounds who have college educations and good jobs because a teacher believed in them and backed it up with good advice and a kick in the tail when needed.
Teachers do get burned out and tired, and there are some bad apples, but for the most part they have the biggest hearts in the world. If you want to do one thing that will make school better for your children, respect their teachers and give them your support. Let your children know that you and the teachers are a team – a team that is working together to help them grow up to be confident and successful.
So here’s your homework for Teacher Appreciation Day!
Assignment 1: Teachers I have known and loved
In my school system, seniors who graduate with honors get to choose their Most Memorable Teacher, and these teachers are honored at the annual Scholar’s Night. Who are your Most Memorable Teachers?
List your top five teachers of all time – teachers who either taught you or one of your children.
Next to the names, jot down a few words or phrases that illustrate why these teachers were so special (for example: “funny”, “gave me a book for Christmas”, “interesting”, “fair”, “turned me on to history”, “encouraged me to think about college”, “listened to me”, “believed in me”.)
Pick one or two of the teachers and write them a thank you note for a job well-done. Give it to the school secretary, and ask to have the note put in the teacher’s mailbox.
Assignment 2: Great stuff from this year!
Think about the current school year, and jot down anything you’ve been particularly happy about or grateful for at school. Maybe the art teacher took the time to give your child personal attention. Perhaps the classroom teacher has followed the behavior plan perfectly.
Write thank you notes! Send the notes to school with your child, or ask the secretary to put the notes in teachers’ mailboxes.
“There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race.”
–John F. Kennedy