Dear Mr Finlayson,
I know it was your first year teaching and you were sent up to the boonies – High Level, AB – cold and miserable with no friends. Thank you for seeing that there was a little girl in need of a hug and a laugh. Thank you for telling your grade two class “Kids, if you ever need to talk to someone you can talk to me.” Because I did. And you sat with me on a park bench and listened to me talk about my parents divorce. I don’t remember what you said, but I remember how you made me feel. Not alone. Valued.
You were the last teacher to tell me I was brilliant at math. But the first to split his pants in class.
Dear Ms Brathwaite,
I can remember your laugh and your crinkled brown face. Your dress you wore and how you smelled like sweat and baby powder. I was the whitest child in a new country, finding out that I was no longer the star pupil but actually a year or more behind in learning. Your hand on my shoulder as you explained that “naught” meant “zero” made me feel like you wouldn’t let me fail and I wasn’t stupid.
Dear Ms Carroll,
No teacher in their right mind would let their grade one student come home with them nowadays. I don’t remember why I did. But you had a beautiful home with huge sunflowers and your smile was just as bright and I remember you being the tallest woman I’d ever met. It’s no wonder I loved school when I had such a giant sunflower of a teacher to set me on the right path.
These are just a few of the teachers I can remember who made a difference in my life as a child. There were others, many others. I did “ok” in school despite my belief that I have a learning disability of some kind (or it’s just called being a scatterbrain full-time working mom now, I’m not sure).
As I watch my children make their way through school I see the entire system in a much different light. Things have changed. The hows and the whys of all these changes seem to be above my pay grade. The system needed to change as we learned more about educating (and protecting) our kids, but it comes with consequences.
Were teachers always this stressed or did I just not see it because I was a kid? Did so many kids fall through the cracks, or did I miss that because I wasn’t one of them?
What has NOT changed is that teaching is a profession I think one must be called to perform. To be a good teacher I think you must believe that it’s WHAT YOU DO. It’s WHO YOU ARE. I’m in a job where I feel that way about my profession … so that even the stressful days are just a drop in the bucket of a career filled with mostly good.
Teaching can’t be just a J-O-B, you know? I know a few teachers personally and I don’t want to speak for them, but I’ve never, ever gotten the impression that this was “just a job” to them. And as such, I have no doubt that they are good teachers.
(A post on what a ‘good’ teacher is and how it’s all about your perspective is for another day … You just have to visit RateMyTeachers.com to find every opinion you can imagine…)
But if there’s one thing I could tell every teacher called to teach, it’s this:
YOU REALLY, REALLY MATTER.
On the good days and the bad days, you matter to every kid in class.
You’re going to validate their beliefs about themselves every day. This could be the belief that they can succeed, or the belief that they are stupid, or the belief that they matter or they don’t.
Your smile may be the only smile that kid gets today.
You may be the only one telling that kid she’s going to be ok because other adults don’t have the courage.
The “good” kids in the class need you. The “bad” kids in the class need you. The “difficult” kids need you. The kids who just float under the radar need you.
The C-student needs you. The inattentive kid needs you.
They all need you to know that you matter to them even though they will likely never tell you.
It’s a tough job finding out what kids need to be successful and then teaching them – I don’t know how you do it … and not all of your peers are as capable as you. Not all of them really understand how much they matter Every Single Day.
But maybe those teachers just don’t know … you really, really matter.