My first job out of graduate school was as an elementary school library media specialist. That was over 20 years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. Fellow staff and I were all underpaid and underappreciated professionals working and teaching in public schools, but I quickly learned, you don’t teach for the money. Teaching is a job in public service, and you’re there for reasons way beyond the mighty dollar.
Sadly, our society still, still, pays teachers crap, while school districts continue to throw them piles and piles of bureaucracy, constantly changing practices and theories of educational pedagogy, standards, fundamentals, testing, curriculum, and on and on and on. I can think of no other occupation that would put up with that.
And yet teachers still go back every fall. Why?
They do it because it’s a calling. It’s not just a job; it’s a vocation. Teachers do what they do because they possess the deepest of internal desires to turn our children into good adults. Period. It’s truly the most noble profession on this planet. Think about it for a minute: if I asked you to quickly name one adult from your childhood who made an impact on your life, the answer would probably be a teacher. I can name at least five off the top of my head who made me who I am today, most notably my middle school librarian who let me come in early before school everyday to stamp the due date cards in the backs of library books. Her name was Mrs. Kaalberg, and she’s one of the reasons I became a librarian.
To all the teachers out there: Thank you.
Thank you for being the default parent to all of the children in your classes.
Thank you for tirelessly helping the child who gets no help at home.
Thank you for quietly praising the child who only hears negativity at home.
Thank you for spending your own money so little hands can dig into treasure boxes, especially when there are no treasures at home.
Thank you for praying for the child who secretly drives you nuts all day because nobody is praying for him at home.
Thank you for reading aloud to the child who never gets read to at home.
Thank you for hugging the kid who pulls away because they get no affection at home.
Thank you for greeting children with a giant smile first thing in the morning, especially when they may have just left a very sad home.
Thank you for telling kids they can be anything they want to be, especially when at home they may only hear, “You’re stupid.”
Thank you for grading papers on Saturday nights, for hanging billboards late on Friday afternoons, and for putting up with planning days where you actually get no time to plan.
Thank you for being able to only have to pee once a day, and at a specific time, and for being able to eat your lunch in 6 minutes and 45 seconds.
Finally, thank you for having the passion to keep working in an occupation where your achievements so often go unnoticed. Thank you for teaching the same lessons year after year while often wondering, “Will anyone remember this? Why am I doing this?”
I’m here to tell you I remember, my kids will remember, and someday, somewhere out in the world, one of your students will remember you, and they will smile a giant smile at the memory of how you enriched their life. And they will go to their jobs and read (because you taught them how), and calculate (because you taught them how), and process, discern, evaluate, differentiate, focus, observe, discover, all because you taught them how.
And finally, thank you to Ms. Ellis, my seventh-grade English teacher. I once thought you were the most evil woman on the planet because we spent an uncanny amount of time diagramming sentences. I now know you gave me the best gift of all—a certain skill and knack for crafting words that connect with people. Wherever you are, I’m gonna go diagram this sentence just for you.
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