One of the ways I chose to respect the educators who influenced me during childhood was a steadfast refusal to pursue the vocation myself.
Dealing with kids like me didn’t seem like a great way to spend a career. Having teachers in the family, being good friends with several others and meeting dozens as the parents of four boys has reinforced my position: the classroom isn’t for everyone.
Be careful not to construe this position as demeaning, because it’s quite the opposite: respect. I don’t have what it takes to be an airline pilot or a brain surgeon either, but I don’t get a chance to chat with folks in those noble professions at the holiday dinner table or while watching youth baseball.
Last year I wrote a column coinciding with Shaw Media’s “Thank You, Teachers” efforts. Upon reflection I realized the perspective was narrow, concluding with “I hope you have a beloved teacher, and even more so that you have a chance to thank them for shaping your life.”
I still completely agree, but today I’m struck more by the present. I’m fortunate to be able to send our sons to the schools I attended. Given my age, that means they’re taught both by a few folks still around from my student days as well as peers who returned home to help raise this generation from inside the classroom.
“Thank a teacher who shaped your life, but also make time for the ones shaping other lives right this minute. Thank those who take jobs in districts that don’t pay as well, or pursue specialty areas where shortages are most extreme.”— Scott T. Holland
Our kids also have had teachers so young their college diploma ink wasn’t fully dried by open house, providing experienced parents occasion to consider our role in supporting not just the kids but education itself. A good teacher tends to be a good learner, and those first months on the job are a whirlwind of stepping into the adult world, fully dealing with administrators, colleagues, parents and the kids, seeing the ideals formed during student years run headlong into the realities of real life.
Somewhere along the way you have to execute the daily lesson plan, and those fresh faces might well be excused for thinking “right now I could be flying United flight 2298 from O’Hare to Newark and it wouldn’t be this bonkers.”
So yes, thank a teacher who shaped your life, but also make time for the ones shaping other lives right this minute. Thank those who take jobs in districts that don’t pay as well, or pursue specialty areas where shortages are most extreme. Thank those who make teaching their life’s work, and thank those who give it a few years and decide they’re called to a different vocation.
When you encounter a teacher who’s also a partner, who sincerely endeavors to understand your unique child, you know a lifetime bond is forming. Celebrate that magic.