Friday, May 11, 2012

It's The Teachers, Stupid

There's a lot of bluster in our daily news about the economy (it is that, too) and politics (it shouldn't be that) and money (it's definitely not that). That's all good and well - we need to talk about those things and get them sorted out. But, in my view, we may be missing a key part of the conversation. Never one to be left out of a conversation, I've got some thoughts. It's not about any of that - the solution to our problems, that is. It's about the teachers. So here's my ode, along with a special thanks to a certain someone who got the wrong end of my big mouth.

Thanks for teaching my children how to read. I don't have the vocabulary to express what importance I place on that skill, and that you gifted it to my children, along with hundreds of others over the course of your careers, is a blessing I'm sure can only be repaid to you in the next life, where the Gifter is a much greater one than I. That you did so while nurturing, humoring, inspiring is beyond the pale.

Thanks for carrying my children, with all their talents and challenges, through the process of learning with those talents and challenges, not despite them. That you took the time to actually know each one of my children, that you learned them so you could teach them to learn, is a talent so few professionals have and it gave them each so much self-confidence and pride in their work.

You did something I was desperately trying to do but couldn't; you made my children love learning. My children were eager to go to your classes, excited about the next thing - whatever it was. You made them not only read with comprehension, you made them readers! There's nothing better, in my book. (heh heh, readers - book - I'm a riot!)

And let's just cede that the kids certainly weren't going to get math appreciation from me at home. You took a subject that doesn't always have a lot of appeal for many students and you made it interesting, a puzzle, a challenge, a process of pathways to solutions. Those skills are translatable across every possible subject, and my children have drawn from your energy and excitement to dig in with enthusiasm and confidence. It's no small thing.

But it's not always enough to teach. Sometimes you have to let that go and just be a person. You have been hard, when needed, soft, when it mattered, and every shade in between. So the kids know you and adore you and they are more connected to their learning because of you. I'm so grateful.

Your ambition and interest is infectious.

My children learned so much from your classes because you talk to the children like they're real people. I always think children are more convinced when the teacher him or herself believes what they're saying and say it like they mean it - and you do.  Thank you.

While it's not always cool when mom likes it, it sure is cool when you do. What a pleasure it has been to hear stories of your in-class discussions. What a joy it has been to watch my children bloom in your literary gardens. What a treat, for me, to know you are the stewards of the words I love so much, so my children can love them too.

You take my beloved social sciences and make them real, plausible, current - even when the material is ancient! You bring your humanity into the classroom. You are thinkers and citizens of the world and it shows - there's no greater example for young children.

And I'm sure there's some piece of music which would more eloquently express my deep thanks to my children's fine arts teachers - some piece of art that calls out with joy and tears-in-your-eyes thrill at the thought of you and what you've given my children. I'm sure there is and I just don't know it, so my words will have to suffice, but they're woefully inadequate, because you are the color and music in the hearts of my babies - thank you thank you!

And here's one last note, since this has gone on alarmingly too long. I'm the only child of a single-parent mom. For reasons too ridiculous to enumerate here, if you're a man in the life of my children, I watch you like a hawk, and if you misstep I'm on you before immediately. The other day, I callously teased one of my children's teachers in front of others. I'm sorry. You didn't deserve that. Instead, you should know that you more than exceed the standard I have for a teacher - and that you do so wearing the vestige of a man makes you that much more phenomenal in my eyes. (That you are a conservative ideologue and a hunter only serves to prove that no one is perfect, but you're damn close.) My babies adore you because on top of your compassion, kindness, patience and attention you're just a load of fun. Learning should be fun. School should be a blast - exciting and interesting and sometimes silly. You make it that for them under some pretty challenging restraints and you impress me with the ease you bring to the task. Thank you, James. You're going to be a magician in a classroom, I just know it.

So I know these thanks are not much - not enough for sure - but please know that whatever your unions tell you, whatever the politicians and newsmakers tell you - none of that matters.  You are what it is about. You do matter. And I do, with a full heart, appreciate you.

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