Sunday, December 23, 2012

T is for Teacher

Victoria Soto

Victoria Soto, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, Mary Sherlach, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel D'Avino,
Anne Marie Murphy. These are the teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
 Heroes who gave their lives protecting children.

Every teacher I know would do the same. We educate, protect and love our children. It's what we do. 

Their deaths have brought attention to the teaching profession. Attention which is long overdue. It's a shame that it had to take such a tragedy. In the days following 9/11 our country was made aware of the lengths fire fighters and police officers would go to save lives not giving a second thought to putting themselves into harms way. We always knew they were heroes, but watching the images of that horrible day put things into perspective. It gave us a new appreciation for who they are and what they do.

During the past week I've read articles, blog posts and editorials about teachers. It seems our country has suddenly become pro-teacher. It's wonderful to see, a new appreciation for what we do. I've received  hugs from parents, words of thanks, and lovely notes written in Christmas cards. I have never felt more appreciated for doing the job I love to do.

While surfing Facebook today I read a post titled, Dear Teachers. It's a tongue and cheek letter bashing parents.  When I first read it I found myself nodding my head in agreement, but then I began to think. I don't think we are going to get anywhere by bashing parents.

I truly believe the hypothetical parent described in the post is in the minority. Do parents like this exist? Yes unfortunately, but I have no doubt that all parents want what's best for their children. There are those parents who have no choice but to drop off their children early, not because they want to go to Starbucks, but because if they are late for their jobs, they won't have a job. Then there are those parents who need us to feed their children because they can't afford to do so themselves, or those who worry more about providing their family with a warm coat than reading to them each night.
My school recently held parent/teacher conferences and despite their different situations, and their level of parental involvement each and every parent I spoke to, without a doubt, love and want what's best for their child.
This year our school's Christmas concert entertained a full house. There was not a seat to be found. All but one parent kept their appointment with me for conferences, and that parent called to reschedule. Perhaps recent events have made all of us look at our priorities.

I work with children who sometimes have parents who  have not been taught how to parent because they themselves have not had good role models. There are so many facets to this problem. I am a teacher, but first and foremost I am a mother who appreciates each and every teacher who has ever had a part in my children's education. I think that's true for most parents.
I will be honest, I've done my share of complaining, but perhaps recent events have opened my eyes a bit too. I look at my students and their parents through different eyes now. If we truly believe the mantra "parents as partners" then our attitudes need to change too. Being a parent is not easy, in fact being a teacher is easier. I can always quit my teaching job, but I'm a parent for life.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

P is for Pray

I went to church today. Not unusual for a Sunday morning I suppose. But today I went for a different reason. Not because it was Sunday morning, or the Advent Season.
I went to church today as a parent and as a teacher.
I went to church today because I needed my prayers to be heard, maybe a little more clearly and maybe a little bit louder. I went to church today and cried.

I have the good fortune of being a kindergarten teacher. I get to teach and play with our school's youngest students. Not only am I their teacher, responsible for their learning, but in many ways I am responsible for their well-being and their happiness. For six hours a day, 180 days a year, I am their nurse, their surrogate parent, their confidant and sometimes their best friend.

This tragedy has put what I do into perspective for me. I've always known that we do as teachers is important, but as I read the stories of the teacher heroes it has become very clear how important. Teachers save lives.
I'm not talking only about putting ourselves in harms way to protect our students, I don't know a teacher who wouldn't, but we save lives on a much larger scale.
We teach our children skills for life. We teach them how to read, count, share. Sometimes we provide them with the only meal they'll have that day, often we read the only book they'll hear, or give the only hug they'll feel.
We provide their parents with a shoulder to cry on, some reassurance when they don't know what to do or how to cope with life.

I went to church today. I prayed today for myself that I'll be able to continue to teach to the best of my ability. I prayed for my husband the 4th grade teacher, my two oldest children who will become teachers. I prayed for my 6th grader to keep him safe in his big school on the hill. I prayed for my friends, the teachers I have the privilege of working with each day.

I went to church today and I prayed for the children.