30 May 2014

O, Captain!

dear teacher,

did you have any idea way back when that you were choosing one of the most overlooked, yet highly criticized professions? your wages are low, but your stakes are high. you're training the next generation of contributors. those who will care for you as you age out of your profession. what a weird juxtaposition.

you have no idea what the future holds for your students. you spend upwards of 9 months cajoling and applauding the lauds of your often thankless understudies. feeling like pulling out your hair, wrestling with exhaustion and frustration one moment and feeling like you have witnessed a miracle the next. i get it. it can feel like the most sacred and the most caustic of places at time. and every week day you rise to do it again. and again. with a willingness that is heroic. 

thank you for standing in the gap for the under dog. thank you for challenging the scholar. and for all those middlers, those just getting by, thank you for pushing them, giving them just the extra push they need. 

i appreciate all those days (were there ever not one of those days) when you skipped lunch because you were too engrossed in the business of schooling.

did you think i didn't see when you gave that hungry student food that you keep in your desk drawer? even spending your money to order pizza to celebrate classroom accomplishments. 

and i know that your job as coach for the soccer team, the basketball team, the tennis team, the baseball team and the cross country team went unpaid. you did it because you saw a need, and you could fill it.

thank you for inviting me and my boy to serve the homeless all those times. your school day and sense of philanthropy extends well beyond the school walls. you inspire me. teaching to give back. even wayward middle school boys stand in awe of you.

tell your family thank you for all those late nights you spent grading papers. the lines between work and home are deeply blurred for you.

and for all those recommendations you wrote tongue in cheek. well, again you show that you know how to make even the wiliest of student sound compelling. you saw promise in an introverted scholar. and you pushed him to interview for an opportunity of a life time. when he was chosen, it was because of you as much as him.

remember when you emailed that new-to-school mom with praise on how her freshman in high school was acclimating? yeah. that was just what she needed to hear. 

and you crazy teacher. when you have a weekend where are you? at cross country meets and football games and dragon boat races and going to dinner with your students, even attending birthday parties. you were invited because a certain 13 year old thinks you might have just hung the moon. and you inspired this boy to say, "i never knew i loved science til this year." that is powerful. do you ever take off those school colors? don't answer that. i know the answer. 

this year you found yourself at the funeral of one of your students. your job is definitely not a traditional hours kind of thing. if you got paid over time, you would be wealthy, but you didn't go into teaching for the money.

every time i see a man or woman in uniform, i thank them for their service to our country. you deserve the same offering. yet, you walk around in disguise. o, how i wish those who served in schools wore some sort of badges, medals, or perhaps even crowns so that the rest of the world could stop you to thank you for your service to our country. no you don't go to war on behalf of our country. o, wait. you do. 

you wage war on a crumbling system. you wage war on truancy and statistics. you fight for true learning not test scores. i heard you last night tell a room full of boys that the world would tell them they will not graduate from high school. that they will not succeed. you begged them to stay the course. i could hear your passion. you speak from a place that knows the odds these boys are up against. you know because you were there.

but you don't care about statistics. you care about the individual. and you work your ass off to make sure he knows you do even if he's too full of folly to know til he's older.

your rewards don't often come readily. much like a farmer you plant seeds with a pregnant postponed sense of gratification. but unlike a farmer it takes longer, much longer to see your harvest. and by the time the harvest comes, you're on to other fields for planting. 

so the end of may is here. you've made it. another year in the books. you'll give yourself a few weeks to relax, and then you'll be back at it. lesson planning, inservice meetings, getting your room ready for next year's darlings who are sure to come in like lions and leave, well, like lions. 

in case you didn't know, i see you. i appreciate you. i admire you. i trust you. and i think what you're doing or trying to do is worthy of an honorable mention. thank you for your service to our country. 

fondly yours,
a mother

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