WORDS FROM W.W. January 15, 2017
There are a number of educators in my family. My dad taught high school agricultural science for a year in Kentucky before family demands caused him to pursue a different career path. His mom, my Granny Wolfe, was a teacher. My sister and brother-in-law were both teachers, and in the last several years of her career my sister was really a teacher of teachers. I’m married to a wonderful woman who taught pre-school deaf children before we were married. She had graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in deaf education. One of her sisters was in vocational education for close to twenty years, and now my oldest daughter, Kecia, is in her twelfth year of teaching fourth grade.
Back in the mid-nineties I served on the school board of the Mason, Michigan school system. In that capacity, two years of which I served as President, I learned the challenges of being a quality school system and the daunting challenges of teachers. Now I’m a substitute teacher, and about to start my second week as a long-term substitute in a seventh grade social studies class.
What I’ve discovered is that teaching is the most under-appreciated occupation in our nation. Others may disagree with me, based on their observations and circumstances. I won’t debate the situation with them. From my perspective, however, a teacher is like a person who is asked to build a mansion with a pile of sticks, a bag of nails, and a hammer…and to do it quickly and with quality!
A teacher is a counselor…for the student who comes to school dealing with the fact that her parents are divorcing…and for the student whose dog just got hit by a car the night before.
A teacher is a listener…for the classroom full of students who all want to tell her what they did over Spring Break…and the student who needs to share what someone had said to her in the cafeteria at lunch that was hurtful.
A teacher is an evaluator…of the research papers turned in by a hundred and twenty students, tasked with the responsibility of evaluating who made a determined effort and who didn’t, who gave their best and who gave the minimum.
A teacher is a presenter…of subject matter that must be informative, understandable, and interesting. The challenge of educating the gaming and social media generation demands creativeness and a number of ways to communicate the material.
A teacher is asked to prepare students for state assessment tests and expected to have their students produce great scores…even though they have no control over such factors as home environment, limited resources of a family such as food and clothing, and emotional issues that effect a student’s ability to perform well.
A teacher is asked to participate in a number of ways outside of the classroom…such as meeting with the other teachers of their subject matter, school staff meetings, training meetings, team meetings, support school functions such as concerts, games, dances, and fundraising efforts.
A teacher is expected to continue his education…learning the latest in curriculum material, the updated technology, the new school procedures, and also know what it is that his students are interested in.
A teacher is expected to be innovative…thinking beyond the box even though most of her school day deals with stuff that is in the box, developing new and better ways of teaching old things.
A teacher has a never-ending lists of tasks to complete…replying to parent emails, meeting with students who need a bit more help in understanding the subject matter, grading papers, entering grades, contacting parents about their child’s classroom behavior, doing bus duty, doing cafeteria lunch duty, cleaning the room, communicating with the administration, and trying to get a few hours of sleep each night.
A teacher is a planner….of the classroom presentations weeks from now, putting lesson plans together way ahead of time in case he catches one of the numerous illnesses that his students have been freely passing around.
A teacher is underpaid, but passionate about her opportunity to influence lives.
A teacher is a difference maker. When I look back at my school years and also years of college and seminary training there are numerous teachers and professors who still are very memorable in my memory. They challenged me, changed me and motivated me to be someone who lived a life of purpose.
So back to my statement! Teachers make up the most under appreciated occupation…and yet, perhaps, they make the biggest difference!