Wednesday, April 27, 2016

For My Teachers: A Delayed Word of Thanks

     Today was a Wednesday that truly felt like a hump day, and not in the "funny Gieco commercial with the camel" way. It was a hump day in the "I am trying to tell 80 kids to quiet down and 2 of them are listening to me" way. Instead of being grumpy about my day, I decided to use this as an opportunity to recognize some of the teachers that were faced with the task of dealing with me throughout the years, because days like today remind me how severely unappreciated and misunderstood they are
     To the world geography teacher who introduced me to the thought that the world is bigger than this small town, thank you. That thought helped me survive the minefield that was my high school experience. When I finally got out of that small town the summer after graduation and went all the way to Honduras for a mission trip, I got a letter from you saying that you were proud of me, and it is one of my most prized possessions. Making you proud is more valuable to me than any degree or job could ever be.
     To my high school journalism/ Senior year English teacher, thank you for letting me think I knew more than I did. I know I was a brat, but being in charge of that school paper for a year was one of the only things that gave me any confidence at that time in my life. Thank you for gently steering me in a different direction the times my writing was overly cynical and angry due to teenage angst. I'm glad they were never put in print, thanks to your good judgement. Thank You for teaching the Canterbury Tales in what must be the most entertaining way possible, even though you might have gone just a little overboard with your creativity on that one. I'm still not sure what that story is actually supposed to be about, but I don't think I really care, because the real theme can't possibly be better than your interpretation. Also, thank you for those times you almost made me cry when you pushed me to explain myself more than I wanted to, or flat out told me I was wrong in front of the whole class. In those moments, I may have questioned your status as my favorite teacher of all of high school, but when it was all said and done, that status remained, because I realized that in those moments you were teaching me to stand up for myself, and helping me learn that sometimes in life I'm just going to be wrong about things, and it's going to be okay. That important lesson is worth more than any English skills you could have taught me.
     To my mission trip cohorts that I like to call my "teacher friends", thanks for being the people that inspired me to consider the possibility of working with children. While I'm not exactly sure what I will end up doing career wise, I do know that without you I never would have discovered that I have such a love for children, and a desire to help them, whether they are just down the street or across the ocean. Many people like to complain that God isn't allowed in schools anymore, but I know that as long as people like you are teachers He is there, because you bring Him with you in the way you treat the people around you.
     To the people who say that all teachers do is prepare students for standardized tests (I know you're out there, because I've talked to some of you, and seen your posts all over the internet), I won't try to prove you wrong, because your experiences must be far different than mine. You don't get to be in a school for a few hours a day and see the overwhelming list of task teachers face every day. I've heard it said that teaching is a job that requires you to do 20 jobs at once, and over these past few months I've seen just how true that is. They are expected to manage somewhere around 20 little humans, with different personalities,  different life stories, and different learning styles. They can't control what happened to those little humans before they got to school, but they are expected to handle the effects of it. They are very often responsible for correcting behaviors that are triggered by events outside of their control, and they are the ones that are faced with stopping the tantrums, drying the tears, and correcting the misbehavior, all while simultaneously teaching the things their students are required to know.
     When I think back on all of the teachers who impacted my life, I don't think of the test scores they helped me achieve. I think of people who chose a stressful and demanding job because it was their calling, and as a result of following to that calling, taught me important life lessons that cannot be found in any textbook.

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