My oldest child went to Kindergarten this fall. In preparation, I spent the summer helping him with reading. He showed some early interest in learning to read, which was quickly replaced by a variety of distractions ranging from playing with tractors to making fart noises with his mouth. The knowledge of what was truly happening was no secret to me. I'm a writer, an artist and a pathological smartass. What I am not, is a teacher.
Not wanting to make his learning experience unpleasant, I backed off the reading wagon. My husband and I both read to our boys daily, so they were getting plenty of exposure to books. We had engaged in multiple discussions about letting our kids "be kids". We decided as a team that we didn't want to "push" them too hard at too young an age. We also were secretly thrilled when they engaged with each other instead of making us entertain them... so there's that. I let the reading progress marinate and we turned our attention to other things- like playing in the dirt and drawing pictures of tractors... and of course, making farting noises.
The day that school started I held my breath. As I watched my precious baby boy proudly climb into the school bus, I prayed for the things mothers hope for their kids. I prayed that my sons fit in socially and made friends. I prayed that they learning would come easy, without struggle. I prayed that they were focused and listened to their teachers. Most importantly, I prayed that they both enjoyed school and developed not only a love of learning, but the self motivation and desire to always want to do their best.
When my oldest child and I looked at his first homework assignment, it was reading. We pulled the books out of his green and black HotWheels backpack and sat together on the couch. As he wiggled and squirmed next to me, the way that Kindergarten boys do, I listened to him work at sounding out the words. I helped him when he stumbled. Because of his attitude, it was a task I enjoyed. He was excited. He was learning quickly. He comprehended the story. He was smiling. I felt that breath, the one that I had been holding since that first day, exit my lungs. I felt pride. I felt relied. But most of all, I felt grateful to his teachers that have been in his life and helped instill that passion for learning. Those underpaid, overextended teachers who treat my children with the patience and compassion that I am not always capable of. Those teachers who give attention and show kindness to not only my children, but the 20 others (or more) that are also in the classroom. Those teachers who give relentlessly of themselves and provide such a critical influence in the lives of children.
We all had teachers that stand out in our educational experience. Every one of us has been affected by an educator. In my past, I have teachers that pushed me, inspired me and encouraged me when no one else did. These people, who dedicate their life to education, offer something individual and unique to each student. Something that standardized test scores cannot measure. That is why organizations like the Milken Educator Awards are so relevant for recognizing standouts in the educational community. Teachers deserved to be honored for their daily triumphs: inspiring a disenchanted child to learn, sharing their contagious passion for a subject, or giving a struggling child personalized attention and encouragement. The Milken Awards provide stand out educators with $25,000, and money is a beautiful way to say thank you. In fact f anyone wants to thank me for that time I made you snort coffee through your nose, I take checks, cash or vouchers to DSW.
In this season of thanks, I offer sincere gratitude to the teachers of my past and my children's future. They are teaching our kids not only reading, writing and arithmetic, but also instructing them in socialization, attentiveness and appropriate behavior. There is no quantitative measurement for the inspiration that they provide on a daily basis. They are the writers of our future. While many of us paint and draw, teachers are truly the greatest artists of all, patiently sculpting our society one person at a time.
I raise not only my glass, but my entire box of wine to our teachers! Here's to you!
Please feel free to share your stories in the comments below about a teacher that inspired you or someone you love.