The mom is a little sad as she sets the alarm. Another summer has ended and back-to-school is upon her. But even as she reluctantly says goodbye to the fun season of sleeping in, her predominant emotion is one of relief. Soon her kids will be spending their days with those super heroes who are helping to prepare them for the world: their teachers.
You want to know the truth about what we owe our kids’ educators? I think you can handle it.
If you are like me, you have been running around for the past couple of weeks like a chicken with it’s head cut off. You have moaned that your schedule is completely insane. You have felt beyond busy trying to prepare your handful of kids for back to school, what with haircuts and school supplies and bus passes and uniforms . . .
You want to know busy? Consider those magnificent souls who were recently preparing for the dozens of children who were arriving back to school – and settling into their classrooms for the next year.
Full disclosure: my mom is a retired teacher. I have many educators in my family. Certainly my perspective on this issue may be a bit biased.
Even so, there is no denying the importance of those who have dedicated their lives to preparing our kids to successfully navigate the world. Their work is physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing. They pay a price to do their jobs: when purchasing items they use to supplement supplies in the classroom; during the time away from their families after school while they prepare lesson plans and deal with school-related issues; and in shouldering the responsibility and concern for all of the little people that they have taken on as their own.
The closest I ever came to experiencing what it was like to be a teacher was when I worked at a battered women’s program and went into local high schools to implement a dating violence and date rape prevention program for 9th grade students. At one school I was able to present my scoop all day for three days straight, speaking to the kids in their English classes so as to reach every student in the grade.
At night I prepared and practiced my lessons. I made copies of my handouts and organized my props. I agonized over ways to keep my students engaged and interested; I negotiated how to address sensitive topics with both boys and girls, and among kids for whom my subject matter wasn’t just theoretical.
That experience was immensely rewarding. But it was also completely exhausting. Even though at the time I enjoyed the enthusiasm and energy of a twenty-something person, at the end of each day I drove home, ate like I was starving, crawled to my couch with aching feet and a sore back, and passed out for an hour or two. After my non-negotiable power nap I got up and began to prepare for the next day. I was inspired and wrecked.
I have never forgotten that experience. While there is some debate about whether our public school teachers are in better or worse shape financially these days, there is no doubt that they deserve as much as we can possibly afford, and then some. However, I think the financial question is just one part of a larger equation. We clearly owe a lot to our kids’ teachers. But even with a debt that is impossible to fully repay, the truth is, a most important compensation is one that costs us nothing to give: our sincere gratitude and unfailing respect.
Want to get a better handle on supporting your kids’ teachers? Check out The Charlotte Observer editors’ thoughts about teacher pay, consider reading local teacher Kay McSpadden’s Notes From A Classroom, and reflect upon these suggestions from Huffington Post when you want to show your teachers some appreciation.
Bess Kercher explores the reality of motherhood in her blog "A Few Good Moms...Can You Handle the Truth?" Bess lives in Charlotte with her husband and two sons. You may read more of her writing at www.maemucho.com.