As the 2020-2021 school year comes to a close this week, I would like to take time to thank all of our teachers. I appreciate all that you do! In my book, teachers deserve a gold star every day under the best of circumstances; and that goes triple for what they have had to navigate through this past year.
The vast majority of us came up through one school system or another, so we tend to think that we have a pretty good idea of what teachers do. What most people don’t realize is that as students they have only seen the tip of the iceberg.
I come from a family of educators including my husband, sister, father, one aunt, one uncle, seven cousins, and a myriad of more distant relatives. At the head of the pack is my mother who logged an awe-inspiring 42 years in the classroom before retiring. For my whole life, I have witnessed the behind-the-scenes life of teachers.
While earning a modest salary, teachers regularly reach into their own pockets to purchase everything from instructional materials to cleaning supplies as well as a stockpile of snacks for students who might otherwise go hungry on any given day.
Their schedule is rigidly enforced by a daily sequence of bells and buzzers that bring new classes of students into their room as regularly as waves on a shore. There is little time to sit back and take a breath much less make a trip to the restroom. If a teacher is sick, their child announces over breakfast that they don’t feel well, or maybe their parent has urgent needs, it can quickly escalate into a family crisis. They can’t just post an auto-reply message on their email saying they’ll be out of the office and call it a day.
They are charged with universally educating a room full of students, each of whom have their own unique learning style, strengths, weaknesses, academic background, motivators, attitude, hopes, dreams, level of emotional maturity, work ethic, extra-curricular commitments, home situation, degree of parental involvement, and view of how they fit into the universe, as well as possible health issues.
The hours are very long, and there is no such thing as overtime pay. In addition to the classroom time, there is paper work, lesson planning, grading, attending meetings, communicating with parents, classroom cleaning and maintenance, providing students with additional help, coordinating work for absent students, and working at school events.
The pay-off for all of this hard work is seldom immediate. It more typically comes when many years after they were in school, a former student contacts a teacher out of the blue to let them know what a positive impact they had on their life.
Did you have a teacher 10, 20, 30 years ago, or more who taught you not just academically, but also threw in some valuable life lessons that helped make you what you are today? Track them down and let them know! Their goal was to give you the foundation you needed to succeed in life; and there is nothing sweeter to a teacher than to hear that a former student is happy, thriving, and successfully pursuing their dreams.
Blount-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce