One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.
- Carl Jung
We can all remember that great teacher; the person who inspired our imagination and lit the fire of learning. Who challenged us to question the world around us and nurtured our creative impulses. Who pushed us to excel, to go beyond that which we thought we were capable, and succeed where we didn't think it was possible. Often-times the actual content that these teachers taught us was irrelevant and had little to do with the impact they had in our lives. They were caring professionals who let us know we were valued, particularly at those times when we were uncertain.
Teachers teach much more than math, English, music, computers or any other specific content area. Teachers teach life and work to imbue students with the skills necessary to grow into successful adults. Educational reform today focuses much of its attention on standards, tests and holding people accountable, but often absent from the discussion is the heart, compassion and nurturing aspect of our job. Where is the concern for the struggling child trying to find themselves or their place in this world? A teacher is often that individual who guides the student through that journey. Who smooths out the bumps, provides support, advice and guidance. A teacher is often the person who is there when students stumble and help them up when they fall. This is an essential part of the teachers’ role not captured by standardized assessments.
This week is teacher appreciation week. At least for this week, policy makers will refrain from telling us how teachers and our schools are failing. They will applaud teachers for their dedication and hard work. They will recognize excellence in the profession and hold up examples of teachers’ who have dramatically impacted students’ lives. My question to you is why do we only do this for a week? For the most part, teachers labor in the obscurity of their classrooms neither seeking nor receiving recognition for their efforts.
Teachers enter this profession for a love of children and learning. By and large they are caring professionals who get up each morning to make a difference in the lives of our children. Teaching is not a job for most, but rather a passion and a calling. The art and practice of teaching is one of the most difficult and challenging of professions. Anyone who doubts this should try and keep the attention and focus of a group of 8th graders on a hot afternoon in May or maybe you would like to try your hand at teaching 3rd graders the Friday before Christmas break. How about trying to grab the attention of seniors this time of year with one foot out the door?
During the day teachers get little down time and are constantly fielding a barrage of questions on topics ranging from academic content to relationship advice. They return home at the end of the day exhausted, yet with papers still to grade and lessons still to plan. They do not get to choose the students they teach, but must educate all who come through their doors. Each student is an individual who comes to them with their own set of experiences, strengths and weakness. Some come from affluent socially connected families and others from broken homes. Yet teachers teach and care for them all trying to help them learn, find their passions and engage their imaginations.