This morning, I said so long to my husband, a high school teacher, and my son. My heart threatened to brim over with worry, concern, and mostly complete love for them both. In talking with a few moms who stood outside my son’s school this morning and after reading various social-media posts, I know I am not alone in my feelings today.
This weekend, I thought about two things related to Jesus, whose birth we prepare to celebrate, that gave me a little comfort:
- When the disciples tried to keep children away from Jesus, he rebuked them. He welcomed and blessed the little children and said that the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to them.
- In various places in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as “rabbi,” which means teacher.
Over the last several years, U.S. teachers have been the subject of increasing scrutiny and sometimes heavy criticism. Certainly, their methods, qualifications, and efforts should matter to the public—we entrust to educators our own little children, without question our most valuable resource. As is true with any profession, some employed within teaching don’t take their jobs seriously enough, and measures should be taken to deal with that when it occurs. As well, sane reforms to improve our overall educational system are necessary.
But poorly performing teachers seem to get more attention than do the host of good ones. Most teachers whom I’ve known personally, both as a student and now as an adult, are hardworking people genuinely eager to make a difference. They don’t come close to having the imagined rewards and privileges that segments of an embittered public accuse them of enjoying. It’s always easier to hurl invective at and direct anger toward people working within a system, instead of considering the system itself, and exploring the reality that all of us, teachers and not, are part of that system.
To be a good teacher means to have concern for the future, a desire to help others, and a willingness to sacrifice in an attempt to instill positive habits and values in young people. After reading about the acts of courage that educators performed last week, it also requires a level of dedication and, sadly, selfless bravery that most other professions don’t yet require.
This week, my son will perform in his school’s holiday concert. His class is singing “Deck the Halls.” Teachers are helping him and his friends learn all the words, the arrangement, the harmony, the presentation. The children are undoubtedly testing their patience, but these adults continue to work with the kids to make something beautiful for the children’s families to treasure and enjoy. And though the songs and shows are different, similar experiences are happening in classrooms throughout the country. Such dedicated efforts, however, happen not just this week, but every single day, as teachers guide and shepherd students through academic subjects, creative endeavors, and, yes, difficult life lessons.
For today, although the musical connection is tenuous at best, I dedicate my writing to teachers—to all those whom I know and love personally (including my husband, father, countless relatives and friends); to those who educate my son and try to make him a better person; and to all those unknown to me but who I have no doubt have spent the better part of today calming fears, holding hands, drying eyes, and giving of themselves, even though they probably have little left to share.
It’s unfortunate that sometimes their efforts are remembered only in extreme circumstances. Each day, many of them work to help our children in small and enormous ways—a true gift that we should appreciate long after the holidays are over.