If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you know I’ve spent the better part of this week posting acknowledgements and appreciation for the best of my teachers. And I didn’t even get to all of them.
Even the worst of my teachers had something to offer, if nothing more than how to deal with a person in authority who doesn’t know how to do his or her job or with whom you do not get along: a truly vital life lesson.
Part of my respect for the profession of education arises from the fact that both of my parents were educators.
My mother taught elementary school for a very short time. She graduated from college in 1957 and soon thereafter married my father, and when she became pregnant with my oldest brother, the principal called her into his office and requested that she begin her maternity leave at spring break rather than finishing out the year. My brother was due in July, and my mother was counting on working until June. But the principal insisted that she go because she was starting to “show” and he didn’t want the children asking questions. Different world, huh? She never did go back to teaching in an elementary school, but she taught ESL classes to adults for years and considered her work as a mother of three to be just as important as any she had done in a classroom.
My father taught middle school and then moved up the ladder into administration, ending his career as the well-liked and much admired principal of an elementary school in the Bronx, New York. Now well into his 70s, he is still active in the teachers’ and administrators’ organizations.
I never needed anyone to tell me that teachers worked really hard and didn’t make much money. It was no big mystery to me that teachers (and yes, principals) bring home wads and scads and piles of paperwork that take hours to slog through. You didn’t have to tell me that teachers took summer jobs to make ends meet and attended seminars and night school to maintain their credentials.
My one big teenage rebellion was that I was NOT going to become a teacher (well, that, and posters of guys wearing makeup). Stupid. I’ve spent most of my adult life regretting it and trying to get people to let me work in their classrooms. I have friends who say I’m a natural born teacher, and that makes me proud.
If I am, it’s because I have good genes.