I can pull up the memories. Miss Cook, my kindergarten teacher who produced a musical reviews with my kindergarten class of the Gay Nineties. I was a beautiful doll in a black and white striped dress. Costumes, music, acting—she did it all with five-year-olds. Miss Lamb, my third grade teacher. She was ancient, my mother’s teacher before me. Teaching had been her whole life, love poured out of her. We all felt so special to be in her presence. Mrs. Preston was the “too outspoken teacher without tenure.” She brought biology alive in ways it continues to live, 60 years later. Mr. Wright dropped out of school at 15 to enter journalism, returned to train himself so he could each the future generation what he knew. My writing has always shone because he cared, and my writing has been my foundation.
Teaching was always a thankless career. One designed, once, for spinsters and young ladies still looking for husbands. One could not devote all they needed to teaching and have any kind of life on the side. I lived as a teacher for well over 40 years. It was intense. Nothing else could happen during the hours I presided over my motley students. I poured everything I was into that classroom seven straight hours. Bathroom breaks, lunch periods were almost non-existent day after day. And then there was the prep all evening every evening.
I fought over the necessity of the breaks in the school year. Christmas week, spring break, summers. For me that was when I had a few hours of returning to sanity, of fulfilling the needs of everyone else in my life.
I was “on” all day every day with those students. I constantly reinvented myself, reinvented my entire curriculum in order to find the right approach to teach Johnny or Betty. And I felt so proud each year when I looked at the results of the intense work I had done. Johnny had developed new skills in areas we had felt were impossible for him. Betty had learned how to get along with others, blossomed into a beautiful flower. I had assisted in the transformation.
Today our educational system has been abused and kicked around. Teachers are asked to do more and more for more and more students under increasingly difficult circumstances. Monies cut. Students fractured. Knowledge to be passed on has multiplied exponentially. Expectations for what a teacher must do become increasingly unrealistic.
Homeschooling seems for some to be the panacea. Schools are seen as too broken to meet the needs of our own child. Those who remain with the schools ask for even more dedication from the teachers. And they are expected to do it with more and more limited funds. More and more mandates, tests, individualized programs.
I see teaching as one of the most important careers out there. Teachers are to take the raw material offered by children and mold them into the citizens of tomorrow. When they cannot do their jobs, our entire society collapses.
Thank you, teachers! Your jobs are thankless. Your expectations are boundless. Your support shrinks, yet you keep coming back to do it again.
Ten years ago I left Sterling Elementary in Sterling, Virginia, a suburban school outside Washington DC. We had a multi-cultural population with many challenges. I do not know a more dedicated group of professionals. Through Facebook, I have continued to follow these friends. They continue to plug away at their profession as requirements become more demanding, and fun1ding does not exist. These are heroes! We depend o them to work their miracles. Thank you
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"