In Honor of Our Teachers

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Teacher Appreciation and Admiration

As I have stated several times on previous blogs , I am a retired school teacher.  I taught for a short window of fourteen years.  I graduated cumlaude and began teaching in 1990.  Teaching has evolved since I began and you can be the judge if it’s for the better or worse.  Several factors propelled my move from being an educator, though I will not abandon supporting and admiring the educators of today, especially the ones that have earned a badge of community civil service, in my opinion, for educating our young people over 40 years or more!  I have relatives that today say, ” The easiest job in the world is to be an educator. You get weekends off and summer vacation.” You can imagine how insulting this is to me. Some people have such disregard  for our teachers.  We should have nothing but gratitude and admiration for those teachers that come in each day, willing to put themselves in a very different atmosphere.

When I began, the day was structured. There was still respect for the teaching profession and I had the support of the parents, asking me to feel free to discipline their child and call whenever they were not at their best. Don’t get the idea that discipline involved hitting or spanking, but rather, being able to take a privilege away if it was called for.   That support has fallen dramatically even in those fourteen years.  I used to be able to call for even inappropriate language, and now, it’s just the norm to throw  those foul words around. Walk down the corridor of our schools, you’ll hear it.  I took the time to fill out a daily communication agenda towards the end of my career, and while the majority appreciated my effort, there were still the few parents that supported their child’s inappropriate, disruptive behavior and communicated that to me in a most distasteful way.   Not only has the disregard for teachers escalated, but it has trickled down from the parents to the students. It has in turn brought on a disregard for life as bullying and violence on our campuses are high lighted in the news.

Along with the social factor, there of course is the standardized testing factor.  I came in the infancy of F.C.A.T. our Florida State Assessment Test used to not only measure the student’s academic growth, but of course to generate money for the schools upon so much improvement.  The problem? We were expected to cram a full year’s curriculum in about 6 months. Subjects like science and social studies were pushed to the back burner to concentrate on the reading and math portions of the tests.  Teaching to the test, not the needs of the students was the problem for me.  And about those “free weekends”… I worked all weekend correcting papers, working on lesson plans and preparing for the coming week, as many of our dedicated teachers do today.

When I began teaching the days were S-L-O-W.  I could take the time to chat with the students in the morning as they prepared for the day, check on homework, go over the homework, keep kids inside from PE or Art or Music to do the homework they may not have completed or may not have understood.  (Educators can’t do that anymore- infringes on student rights.)  And guess what, they would do their homework, because they wanted to go to fine arts! The day would start with a moment of silent meditation, now done away with.  There was time for teaching cursive writing each day, making special crafts during the holiday times,and read a chapter to the class each day as they followed along. We made sure students learned their time tables, along with computation skills.  I enjoyed writing lesson plans and giving the administrators a color key for objective, lesson and evaluation. So there may have, indeed, been a time that teaching was “the easiest job in the world.”  Today I say, not so.

I hold dear memories of my elementary years even today. I think they were the happiest years in my child hood.I learned the formative basics of reading, writing, math and history, and had great fun doing so. I can remember all my elementary teacher’s names. I remember reading circles in kindergarten, as well as the joy I had painting big yellow ducks at the easel. My teacher would use milk cartons and I can still smell the thick tempura paint and feel the wooden brushes in hand.  I remember parading hats through classrooms made of paper plates, tulle and flowers during the Easter season.  I remember making pins out of dried beans for my mother in the later elementary grades for Mother’s day.  I remember visiting the library during special holidays to see holiday films. Merry Christmas by the way.  Everyone seems to be so afraid to say those words now.  I remember career days and visiting police officers that taught about safety, and let us scoot through their patrol car.  I remember decorating huge boxes to collect cans for the community during Thanksgiving. I remember the “deer in the headlights look” when a peer was told to behave or go to the principal’s office. I remember free play after lunch and pretending the huge banyan tree out back was a kitchen.  My friends and I would pretend we were cooking stew as we stirred leafs. The innocence lasted a lot longer than it does today. I remember our teachers reading  stories  with a moral . Who doesn’t love Ferdinand?   I remember clapping the erasers for my teachers. It was wonderful to go to school each day.  Even the lunches were great to me. Their spaghetti with sticky cheese on top. Yum. Above all, school was a safe place to be.  I remember fire drills, but never school shootings like you hear about today.

I think those great memories gave me the desire to become a teacher, and for the first few years of teaching, I was able to transmit the joy I experienced when I was a kid, much like a parent passes down their traditions to their children.  And my students were my children, that’s how I felt.  I wanted them to succeed and LIKEWISE THEY WANTED TO SUCCEED. I felt great joy and pride seeing students that could barely read in the beginning of the school year, become fluent readers by the end. But something has broken along the way.  Not to sound apocalyptic, after all, I have children of my own emerging into their adulthood. But there has been a breakdown in society in general, and the respect young people and families once had for our teachers has well become a thing of the past. Compile that with the rush, rush, rush imposed by  hand held devices that in my opinion have numbed us to inappropriate actions, and have conditioned us to just want to be entertained all the time. Teachers have their work cut out for them. It may be easier for the young person who was born with a computer by their side, and not see the change for themselves.  I hope it is for our young teachers’ sakes.

So I want to take the time to thank all our teachers for “sticking with it” and taking care of our kids while they are away from home.  For taking on the challenge of educating our kids to the standards that are called on today and preparing  them, through education, for their life long calling, whatever it may be.  Thank you for taking a positive role in forming our young people into achievers, despite all the challenges of today.  I truly admire you for choosing Teaching as your life long career.  And as summer is upon us, enjoy it.  You so deserve it! You deserve your summer vacation time!