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My Teachers Are Exceptional
Pride & Love
If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job.
-Donald D. Quinn-
When my mother, a former parochial grade school teacher, used to introduce herself as a teacher to my friends’ parents or to other adults, she would usually get the same reaction. They’d smile at her and tell her she was lucky to have such an easy job. They believed, as do far too many others, that because teachers have the summer off, they have tons of free time and work ends once they shut off their classroom lights. As the child of a teacher and the best friend of another, I can assure you that this is not the case.
Growing up, my family’s weekend plans revolved around my mother’s correcting and lesson planning. If it had been a particularly long week with tests and papers, we would stay in. My mom would lay her papers across my grandmother’s living room carpet and we would not disturb her for the duration of Sunday afternoon. If it had been an easy week with only worksheets and posters, we would leave the house, but be back by 7 pm.
While it is true that teachers have the summer off, it was not exactly true for my mother. As teachers are severely underpaid and it’s impossible to raise three children and pay a mortgage on a cook’s salary alone, my mom would tutor two to three days a week. On those days, depending on whether she worked in the morning or at night, we would schedule around my mother. Morning days were my favorite. Even though she was exhausted, we still could go to the beach or the lake or some other place where she could sit and read. If it was a night day, it was pretty much a wasted day. When your mother has to be in work at four, your travel options are extremely limited.
During the school year, my mother seemed to have a meeting after school every day. As I attended the school she taught at, I would have to wait in her classroom for her dismissal. Sometimes I would do my homework. More often than not, I would just sit and try not to listen. If they met in the room next to my mother’s classroom, I would hear what the meeting was about. Even though the bell had rung, her teacher friends still used their booming teacher voices. I would overhear that some student’s parents were involved in such and such illegal/immoral/etc. dealing and to watch their child closely so that they don’t head down the same path. I would hear them cackle, verbally patting each other on the back for being so superior and putting one student or another in their place. On the ride home, I always asked my mother how she could be a part of that group. How could we need money that bad?
My best friend teaches at a Catholic high school. This is her first year teaching. You may have heard me reference her in past hubs. Her high school is an inner school that caters to at risk students. Over this past year, she have met students who, up until now, had never been told of their worth. Past teachers and harsh life lessons had made them believe that failing once meant you failed forever. Through their combined effort and a strong dose of encouragement on my friend’s part, these same students have been given a brighter outlook on life and now stand a chance at getting into college.
However, as in the case of my mother, she works with several teachers and administrators who shouldn’t be allowed near children. My friend, like my mother, is criticized for being too lenient with her students. Yet, like my mother’s, her students surpass the rest. Both my mother and my friend believe that an ideal classroom environment is one in which every voice can be heard and every student is treated fairly. While it may get noisy, shouldn’t learning be enthusiastic? The more time teachers waste on maintaining perfect silence the less time is left for learning, growing and success.
Too often in our society, we are told that young people are of little value, their minds yet to be fully developed, their thoughts and ideas of little or no relevance. I am thankful that my mother and my friend don’t believe this. My mother made a lasting impact on her students as shown by the successful adults they have become and by the teacher award nominations she has received. Judging by this year alone, my friend is on the same path. I value these two women very deeply. It is not hard for me to speak proudly of them. They decided to enter into a very difficult profession where compliments and accolades are few and defensive parents are many. They don’t get coffee breaks, hour long lunches, employee appreciation days, personal days and set hours from 9-5. Their days are 24/7, never stopping. If people knew everything that a teacher has to do and for the laughable amount of money they are paid to do it, a couple months break wouldn’t seem so appealing.