Thoughts on Teacher Appreciation Week

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I was a full-time teacher for about 3 years. Turns out teaching is really hard, and choosing a career based off short work days and summers off is not a wise decision- nor is it based on the truth. Teachers work like crazy- grading, making lesson plans, and they forever have to continue their education and personal development, even in the summer.

Soon after starting my career, I retired to pursue my dream of raising a gaggle of kids as a stay-at-home mom. I am so thankful to have 2 degrees in education that I now use to quote child development statistics to my disinterested husband and to wipe tiny butts. Its a real hoot every month when my student loan bills roll in.

Since I wasn’t in the classroom for long, I don’t know a lot about the world of education- but I do know a couple of thing.

  • I know the paychecks are a joke.

  • I know that school systems introduce new “projects” or “initiatives” about as often I clean the lint trap in my dryer. It’s a lot for a teacher to keep up with in addition to their, you know- job of teaching of actual students.

  • I know that those who teach continue to be committed to our children because it is their calling, and that we are all better because of their life work.

My knowledge of the educational system did not, however, prepare me to send my own child to school.

I remember dropping my baby off on the first day Kindergarten. I remember looking at the teachers with tears in my eyes. I desperately needed these teachers- these strangers, to know that my child was special. That she was loving and kind, and I needed them to protect that in her.

My worried thoughts played on a loop in my head.

What would happen if she dropped her tray in the cafeteria?

What would happen if she was surrounded by mean kids?

What if she became the mean kid?

What if the work was too hard and she was too embarrassed to ask for help?

Would these busy teachers even notice?

I couldn’t imagine how 2 people could be responsible for 23 kindergartners.

I remember my husband saying, “Well, they seem nice.”

I rolled my eyes as tears streamed down my face- just because they had sweet voices and cute colored denim jeans, did not mean they were “nice” and it certainly didn’t mean that they were good teachers. I felt like I made a mistake.

I felt like I should home-school or sell all of our belongings so we could afford private school, or maybe just skip education. I mean, look at my history, it obviously isn’t that important. Best to cut out college dreams and student loan debt now.

Turns out, I was wrong.

These same teachers taught three of my kids back to back for consecutive years. They tailored their instruction to each of their students. They were organized and fun. They were firm when they need to be, and they were unnaturally patient the rest of the time.

They were phenomenal.

I assumed we got lucky, and these teachers were the exception, but not the rule.

My daughter moved from Kindergarten through the third grade, and each year I was worried that it would finally be the year we got stuck with a sub-par teacher-but it just hasn’t happened yet.

My children have had teachers who have listened to my concerns and helped make a plan for success. They have picked up on areas of strength and weakness that I had overlooked.

I see these educators give their all, not only in the classroom,- but in IEP meetings, after school activities, and at weekend school functions.

I see them deeply engage with my daughter who can be a perfectionist and a “teacher’s pet.”

I see their patience and dedication with my son who has a tendency to get in a little trouble at school.

I see them pull up a seat to help the child who is struggling to read. E

very teacher we have had has been passionate and knowledgeable, but more than that they have helped to mold the character of my children.

I wasn’t prepared for this part.

I wasn’t prepared to believe that they would do so much more than teach them to read, write, and do long division.

They have demanded my children’s best, and challenged them to become independent. They have been generous with their time and resources. They have prayed for us. They have authentically loved my kids.  

My children are who they are because of the teachers in their lives. They have learned diligence, respect, communication skills, and order. Sure-we have spent years working towards this at home, but there is something about another adult driving it home that has made it start to sink in.

It is humbling to me, as a parent, to realize that I can’t be my child’s everything- and to see that an adult outside of our family can impact my child in a way I cannot.

There is something magical and spiritual in the knowledge that I can let go a little, because my children are surrounded by people who genuinely want the best for them.

My daughter now comes home with stories about her third grade teacher’s life and childhood. She will carefully re-tell them to her dad and me, as she so earnestly cherishes these life lessons and funny tales. She has a mentor and a role model she identifies with, and that has been a gift.  

I can’t even begin to imagine how teachers find time to work with each child, to make lessons fun and effective, to grade papers, and to jump through all of the hoops the systems demands they jump through- but they do it.

They do it in spite of the red tape, and they do it in spite of a society that doesn’t value them as much as they should. They do it with a smile and with passion. They do it with their sweet voices and their cute colored denim jeans.  

I hope they really know how much we appreciate them. I hope that they know, that from the bottom of our hearts, we are thankful.