Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Year of the Teacher

It occurred to me, as I wrote end-of-the-year thank you notes to Will and Hallie's teachers and allowed my mind to wander back through the last few months, that this has, at least unofficially, been the year of the teacher. Not in the sense that we've suddenly decided to pay teachers the salary they deserve; or provide schools with adequate human, physical, and educational resources; or stop basing teachers' worth on how well their students score on standardized tests. But in the sense that teachers have been thrust into the limelight for going above and beyond their professional responsibility to teach our children the basic lessons of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

In Newtown, Connecticut in December, dozens of teachers saved the lives of hundreds of children when a crazed gunman opened fire in their elementary school. Two teachers, two aids, the school psychologist, and the school principal paid the ultimate price for their bravery and lost their lives that day.

And in Moore, Oklahoma last week, dozens of teachers saved the lives of hundreds of children when a EF5 tornado crashed directly through their elementary school.   

Our children mean more to us than anything else in the world. And every morning we pack their backpacks, hand them their lunch boxes, kiss their cheeks, and send them out the door to spend the entire day in someone else's care. We trust our children's teachers to not only educate them, but to also nurture and support and protect them.

A good friend of mine, who has been a high school English teacher for 11 years, recently said, "I don't know one teacher who WOULDN'T throw him/herself in front of a gunman or on top of students during a devastating tornado".

And you know what? Neither do I.

Hallie's preschool year ended last week, and after tomorrow morning's kindergarten graduation, Will's first year of elementary school will be a thing of past. Both children had a wonderful school year - courtesy of the teachers who educated, nurtured, supported, and protected them - that thankfully held none of the violence and destruction that now define Newtown and Moore. But I have no doubt that if a similar tragedy befell their schools, Will and Hallie's teachers would have done their very best to get my little ones back to me safely.

So I tip my hat and raise my glass to teachers. My teachers, my children's teachers, my friends who are teachers, and all of the teachers I don't know - and won't ever know - but who are making a difference in their small corner of the world. Thank you.

And now that this year of the teacher has come to an end (though I think every year should be the year of the teacher, don't you?), close the door to your classroom and enjoy your summer break!

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