Summer is upon us. My kids get out of school next week, which means a few things:
1) My quiet-to-chaos ratio is about to shift drastically.
2) Wet towels will soon be overtaking my house, threatening to bury all of us alive, unless the dirty breakfast dishes get to us first.
3) Teachers everywhere are about to get a well-deserved break.
In case you haven’t been inside a school for a while, let me tell you what I have observed over the past 10 years that I have had children in the public school system: teachers deserve a Nobel prize. In everything. They are creative. They are compassionate. They are intelligent. And heaven help us all, they are patient. Sooooo patient.
I once received a phone call from a teacher letting me know that my first-grader had dropped her show-and-tell stuffed animal somewhere in the four blocks between our house and the school, and that she was trying to be brave but was pretty distraught. I was able to retrace her steps, find the stuffed animal, and make her day when it magically appeared in her classroom. I have had a teacher read a strongly worded essay written by my fifth-grade son about why homework is utterly stupid – and instead of being annoyed, respond by discontinuing homework assignments for the last few weeks of school, thus making my son feel like a rock star. I have listened to a teacher point out positive attributes of a child who had lately been more challenging than delightful, shocking me to no end and allowing me to see him in a new light.
I know teachers are not perfect. Nobody is. Years ago I attended a back-to-school night for one of my kids, and upon meeting her new teacher, my heart fell. “Nope,” I clearly remember thinking. “This is not going to be a good fit. She’s going to have to white-knuckle it through this year.” There was nothing wrong with her teacher; his personality just didn’t seem like it would mesh well with hers. I didn’t tell her this, of course. I came home with nothing but good things to say, all the while crossing my fingers that she would make it through the year OK. Well, guess what? She thrived with that teacher. He pushed her in ways she hadn’t been pushed and brought out skills in her that she didn’t know she had. She enjoyed his personality and he seemed to enjoy hers. His teaching style, much to my surprise, was perfect for her.
I know it doesn’t always play out like that. Sometimes, just like in every profession (parenthood included), a teacher is a dud. But from what I’ve seen, teachers love their jobs and they love their students, and they will give their all to both.
Earlier this year, I attended an assembly at my son’s elementary school. It was the capstone celebration of a spirit week that had been focused on kindness, and my son, along with 79 other students, was being recognized for being “caught in the act” of doing something kind during the previous month. I was sitting in the very back and had a full view of the teeming mass of children that filled the gym. They erupted in laughter when a speaker said something funny, broke into spontaneous dance when music was played, and clapped with abandon for each child who received an award. Teachers and administrators beamed through the happy chaos. At one point, Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was blasted over a loudspeaker, and the kids wiggled their little hearts out from their seats on the gym floor. I noticed a teacher’s aide near the front, exuberantly signing the words of the song to a deaf student, dancing as she signed so he could feel the jubilation in the room. The whole scene was joy uninhibited, and I was strangely moved by it all.
To those of us who are about to have our rambunctious kids dropped back into our daytime hours, let’s brace ourselves and remember that their exuberance is really what we should be striving for ourselves anyway. And to those teachers who are about to get a bit of a break before they welcome our kids back with open arms come September, God bless you all. We know you’re not perfect and we don’t expect you to be. But from where we’re standing, you come pretty darn close.
Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and random menagerie of farm animals. Her view of family life is firmly rooted in the Spokane Valley. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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