Recognizing Teachers: Thank You, Todd Parr.

So often a Teacher’s job is berated: “You get summers off” “You get paid too much for the little you do” “You don’t know what you are doing when it comes to raising a child”.  Not a lot of people actually respect the job of a teacher. And while I am not here to dispel the falsehoods that seek to trample my kind here at home, I would like to share why exactly I am a Teacher. And in doing so, a lot of these damning falsities will crumble.

I did not come to the conclusion to be a teacher lightly. No. When I was little, sure, I played Pretend-Teacher. My momma is a teacher and like a lot of  young girls, I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. So I chalked endless mathematical equations, and grammatical sentences, and diagrams on the dark wood door of my bedroom, with an imaginary classroom paying rapt attention to my lessons. And I enjoyed it! I would explain the concepts to my invisible students and then answer their voiceless questions.

Years later, when I was graduating from university, all I wanted to do was travel the world. And I knew I couldn’t do it on my savings, so I decided to build a portfolio that would market me to the international world of employers hiring tutors and teachers of English. So began a couple of years of travelling abroad and teaching students who were 3 years old one summer, and then 18 years old the next winter. And it felt good! At the time, I thought it was just the freedom and the opportunity for self-discovery and exploration that gave me such joy. However, when I returned home, I realized that continuing teacher-like jobs still afforded me the same happiness. So, at the urgency of friends and family, I began my journey to becoming a teacher. Today, I work in the school system and no matter how hard the day stretches before me, I am content. I have the opportunity to help in a way that I have wanted to since I was a child. In what other job could I be surrounded by a classroom full of young minds hungry to learn what it is I have planned for them that day? In what other job could I smile when I see one of my students complete a task (s)he has been struggling with since the beginning of the school year? Or when I am coaching cross-country and one of my students decides she is going to push herself to be a stronger runner after heeding my encouragement? Or when I am able to deliver a book of interest into the excited hands of a student who does not really love reading? What other job is out there where I can help make such a positive difference in the life of a child?

Some of the most valued people in my life are teachers. Some of them have been instrumental in bringing me to where I am today. Such is the destiny of a teacher, and I wanted to continue that trend. For me, being a teacher is a vocation, and within that vocation, my students’ education and well-being becomes the priority.

I know the job of a teacher is difficult. With the limited, and soon-depleting, resources and supports in many school systems, that job is made harder, whether the outsider is privy to it or not. As teachers, we don’t spend our lunches and recesses coaching children who are struggling in Math or Science because we get paid more. We do this because we want that child to succeed, because we want him to know that we believe in him, and hopefully one day, he too will believe in himself. As teachers we do not offer 2-3 extra hours a few times a week to coach soccer or hockey or chess club just because it is a party and we get paid more. No, we do it because we want to inculcate a valuable skill-set within our students. A skill-set that will prepare them well for a healthy and well-rounded future. As teachers we don’t spend evenings and weekends and summers devoted to our own personal enjoyments, but devoted to planning different lessons for all the different learners within our classroom. We make sure that because Tommy is a visual learner the lesson should have pictures, and because Jane learns better with sound we should play an audio clip to illustrate the concept, or because Matthew is a tactile learner, there should be a hands-on activity to fortify understanding at the end of the lesson. And then, there are our students who need us a little more; maybe they don’t get it the first or the second or the third time, and therefore need extra time that the regular class schedule does not allow for. Or maybe we have students with autism or dyslexia or other intellectual abilities that do not allow us to teach everyone with a one-size-fits all lesson. Or maybe there are students who have severe emotional needs that no one else is meeting, and cannot learn at the same pace as their peers. We step in and play a plethora of different roles: Teacher, Instructor Therapist, Counselor, Mentor, Nurse, Cheerleader, Confidante, Disciplinarian, Coach. We do not sit behind our desks and just do paperwork. No, there is much more to the job.

Therefore, when I came across Todd Parr’s Teachers Rock!, I felt a smile edge onto my face. At first I was surprised, because really, ask a handful of teachers, they are not used to receiving much, if any, praise or recognition. However, here is an author who gets it. Parr has an accompanying beautiful illustration for everything a teacher does, and his sensitivity to the minutiae of a teacher’s job is truly heart-warming. So, thank you, Todd Parr, truly, for understanding and standing by us. And all you teachers out there, this is a copy you’ll want to own. If not for your students, then at least for yourself. You owe it to yourself to be reminded of what a good job you do for your students.

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