‘T’ is for ‘Thanks, teachers’ [UPDATED]Published 5:00am Monday, June 17, 2013 Updated 7:04am Monday, June 17, 2013
This is for the one who stands before our kids every morning to unveil the mysteries of multiplication tables or the bicameral legislative system or centrifugal force. This is for those who must demystify Dickens or parse the Pythagorean theorem or drum out dangling participles. Thanks.
A lot of us think you should get paid more and have smaller class sizes and not have to worry about whether your position will be cut every April. So, now, as you empty your desk and power down your Smart Board and turn out the lights after another year, here’s to you.
Frankly, most of us have no clue how you do what you do. We can’t imagine the kind of energy it takes to stand before 25 or 30 or 35 bright faces every day — or six times every day — take a deep breath, and try to bring alive subjects and predicates or the principles of kinetic energy. And that’s assuming everyone in those rows of desks has had enough to eat for breakfast. How do you unleash the curiosity of the quiet kid in the back who might someday might write a novel or become a pathologist? How do you rein in the rambunctious students long enough to teach them “‘I’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’”? And is the girl in row two texting the one in row six under her desk? Like many of my colleagues, I have had the opportunity over the years to talk about journalism or writing in a lot of classrooms. I’ve done my prep, hauled along tools of the trade, laid in a supply of stories to share. But I’ve had a seventh-grader fall asleep on me in the front row. I’ve had to break through the amorous conversation between a boy and girl in the back. I’ve had six kids walk out at an appointed time for some extracurricular obligation.
I walk away every time wondering how teachers handle that for six or eight hours a day. Where does your voice go? Where does your patience go? Where does your energy go? How do you know you’re getting through to those kids? How are you supposed to change lives when a fourth of the class isn’t reading at grade level? How do you spend part of your evening coming up with a creative way to teach Shakespeare, only to have a snow day or half the class gone for the state hockey tournament? Now, you’re squeezing Shakespeare into half the time you had planned, and you know the kids aren’t getting all they should have.
Even when everything works right, when you’ve prepared well and you’re really on your game and the kids seem to be getting it, you never really know for sure, do you? How do you know until years later, when one of them comes home from college, stops by and says, in so many words, “Thanks. You made a difference.” You’d have to really hang on to moments like that. So, for all of us who never came back to tell you, thanks.