I think the people who were born to be teachers have to be of a slightly different breed from the rest. Strange creatures they are… and the better a teacher they are, the stranger they must be.
After all, who would want to spend their entire day, every day, 180+ days of the year with kids? Who could stand the tension between being both a nurturing force and disciplinarian for so many young lives? Why would anyone ever want to give of their time, their energy, their heart in order to teach someone else how to think and live for themselves? What kind of person would ever want to bear the responsibility for forming the minds and hearts of a bunch of motley kids into (hopefully) responsible, kind, and productive individuals who could one day be running our very nation?
Teachers would. What an odd bunch.
Over the course of the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet all kinds of people, from all different backgrounds, all different States, and all different countries. As I begin thinking about how we are going to one day educate children of our own, while living in an international setting, I’ve done a sort of unofficial survey among these people about their experiences in school. The more I hear about what people were taught and how the knowledge was administered, the more thankful I am for the education I was fortunate enough to have been given throughout my formative years. I always knew my teachers were special, a cut above the rest (how’s that for a classroom slogan?), but these conversations have really helped solidify that reality for me.
As a kid, I loved school. I hated missing a day when I was sick, and I looked forward to going back. The teachers I grew up with really did make school fun and interesting! But, even more than that, I can remember specific days, specific times, specific events when each of my teachers reached out to me. I still have notes of encouragement I received from teachers in middle school during periods where my father’s health was declining. They cared enough to know about what went on in my family outside of the school walls, and that meant a lot. I still hang on to photos of my (awkward) young self with teachers from both elementary and middle school, as they provide some measure of comfort to me as I look back upon them. And yes, some of the catch-phrases from classroom bulletin boards still haunt help me today.
Why was I so lucky?
I don’t know… but, what I do know is that these teachers had a lot to do with who I am today. After graduating from Huntington University, getting married, and finally finding my way out into this world, I naturally had to find a place of employment. After all, bills don’t pay themselves, right? My degree from Huntington was a BS in Ministry & International Missions (essentially, a combination of all gen-ed requirements, theological studies, education, mission history & theory, and language acquisition), which is intended for use in ministry settings or overseas mission work… but, we still needed some time to pay off debts before leaving for the field. Interestingly enough, there happened to be an opening at a grades 3-5 school in the next town for an aide position working with special needs kids right when I needed a job. I thought – “Are you serious? A job that entails working with kids, getting to be a part of an environment that I already know I will love (c’mon don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to go back to class parties, field days, and being able to constantly learn new things!), getting to tutor those who really need it, and have a fraction of the paperwork that regular teachers do? Sign me up.”
I worked in that school for almost 3 years before leaving to pursue our life in Thailand, and I loved it. Sure, there were days I drove home crying (if you are a teacher, and you have had difficult students, you will understand)… there were days I spent an hour chasing an unruly student down the street or tackling a violent child in the hallway. But, the chance to see so many kids growing up, knowing I had the ability to show them love, consistency, and be a positive voice speaking into their lives outweighed it all. During my years at the school, my eyes were opened time and time again to just how much my own teachers must have poured themselves into me. I had some awesome examples to follow, that’s for sure. And, I can only hope that somehow I was able to impact the lives of those kids in the same way my teachers did for me.
So, with that, I say thank you. And, honestly, I don’t know that those measly words could ever be enough.
Though all of them were good, and I learned a great deal from every teacher I had, there are some whose voices I can still hear as I go through my life today. You may not have any idea who they are, and most of them will probably never read this blog, but I felt like I needed to name them anyway. That being said, if you’ve lasted this long already and are ready to be done, you may stop here. All others, continue at will. In no particular order…
Back in Lansing-
Mr. Cushing (I am hooked on Bull’s Eye caramels to this day because of his classes!)
Miss Bludzius (now Sandack)
Mrs. Garrison at the HMS office
And those who influenced me in high school –