Remember those teachers who impacted you so much

Teachers are feeling the brunt of the recent COVID surge. They want to teach but keep themselves, their familes and the kids safe. Yet, we owe so much to our teachers, especially those that changed our lives.

I am biased as my mother was a teacher. I saw how hard she worked grading papers into the night, offering constructive feedback and encouragement to each student. I have seen criticism of teachers when they are looking for pay increases around them not working a full year. But, when you add up their hours and compare them to those of the average year-around working person, they have nothing to be ashamed of in that category.

Please indulge me as I remember a few of my teachers – I will focus on Grades 1 – 12, as I can do an entire post of college professors..

  • I remember Ms. Shrout, the tiniest of high school teachers, exude passion as she taught us Algebra and Trigonometry. She had to stand on her toes to write long solutions from the top of the board. And, she was funny and made us laugh as she taught us so much.
  • I remember Ms. Bowden, who no one would ever accuse of being warm and fuzzy, show her big heart and big mind as she taught us Chemistry and Physics. She treated everyone so fairly and gave up so much of her time as a softball and basketball coach. Ironically, I first met her when I was nine as she was my swimming instructor at the community pool.
  • I remember Mr. Franks who taught us Civics in junior high school. He made learning fun about how society should work, that I would love to see him teach folks today who need it so much. He was as engaging and inviting of dialogue as any teacher I ever had before I got to college.
  • I remember Ms. Regan who taught us Literature in high school. She made reading the classics enjoyable, helping us get beneath the stories that sometimes got hidden in the fanciful prose and poetry. Our classes were enjoyable and engaging. She also gave of herself as a tennis coach.

I could mention more, but wanted to highlight a few. I noted a couple of these teachers also coached the kids after school. They would spend a lot of extra time to help others in so doing, but if I remember correctly got US$500 per annum in extra compensation for all those hours of work at practice and games.

Let me know about some of your favorite teachers and why. Each of the above had a different style, but each conducted classes that were interactive and engaging, which is what it is all about.

My Mother the Teacher – a reprise

The following post was written seven years ago while my mother was still alive. We lost her on early Christmas morning a couple of years later. Since two weeks ago was National Teacher Appreciation Week and today being Mother’s Day, this post seemed fitting to revisit.

When one of the boys I was coaching in baseball found out my mother had been his teacher, he said immediately about the sweetest woman I know, “Your mother is mean.” I asked him why he would say that and he said my mother put his desk up front by her desk. Now, if you remember anything about teachers, you know when a teacher does this she is beyond her last straw. I also knew the boy was more animated than others in practice and would not listen very well. When I mentioned this later to my mother, she said, “He was a real pill.”

Teaching is a hard job. It can be very rewarding, but it also can be very thankless. My mother has always been a teacher, whether as a second (or first) grade teacher, as a substitute or as a bible study teacher. She would spend (and still does at age 83) hours preparing her lessons and, in the case of elementary school, grading papers. In her paying job, she probably worked ten to twelve hours days. Some might say, teachers get summer off, but they work a week after school is out and a few weeks before every one comes back. But, when you add up the hours, they can rival most year-round employment jobs.

However, because they are relatively low paid, especially in my state of North Carolina where we are 46th in teacher pay, many work summer jobs as well. Our state is trying to remedy the problem it created with frozen budgets and cutbacks on additional pay for masters degrees. Teachers have been voting with their feet leaving the state and the Moral Monday protests added a large voice to that of teachers to shame the legislators into doing something. They are still arguing over this as of this writing.

Yet, through this process, teachers have not been shown the respect they have earned. Of course, there are some poor teachers. But for the large part, my experience has been with very dedicated professionals. And, they also take the blame for things outside of their control. My mother would tell you that it does take a village to raise and educate a child. A good teacher cannot do the parent’s job. It needs to be a team effort between the teacher, parents, counselors and teacher assistants. Also, volunteers help, in a large way, especially if there is not enough teacher assistants to cover the classes.

But, you may have noticed I used the plural of parents. The dilemma these days is if you looked at the demographics of classrooms, the number of kids with divorced parents would not be insignificant. Further, the number of those kids with only one parent in their relationship would not be inconsequential, especially in high poverty schools. In the volunteer work I do for homeless families, there is a significant percentage of single parent families. Divorced or single parent families make it tougher on the kids.

A couple of years ago, I tutored two fifth graders in math. They were interesting and attentive little girls who asked for help in writing. This blew me away. One had ten people and three generations in her house and the other had seven people. Each had a heavy list of chores beyond the normal 5th grader, so school work was difficult to fit in. The nice part is a school counselor was working with the teachers and parents to help these girls keep up. Since English was their second language, word math problems gave them trouble, as did geometry, but that can give anyone nightmares. We worked through their issues and they passed.

Seeing my mother with my kids and my nieces and nephews, she has the patience of Job. She embodies what teachers are all about. They want to help people and take great pride when the children learn and can apply their learnings to something else. In Finland, teaching is one of their most honored professions. Their brightest aspire to these roles and are given the freedom to teach. They are paid well and Finland routinely ranks high in education achievement.

We should value people like my mother. They make such a huge difference in our kids’ lives. They did in my life, as well. So, big shout outs to Mr. Batten, Ms. Bowden, Ms. Regan, Ms. Shrout, Mr. Brickell and countless others. Thanks for teaching me. And, the biggest thanks go to Mom. You are my first and best teacher. I love you, Mom.