Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Week

I cannot fail to acknowledge teacher appreciation week, even though we shouldn't really need a week specifically dedicated to appreciating these amazing, dedicated human beings. Like Mother's Day, though, this week gives us a gentle nudge, a reminder to acknowledge our appreciation. I appreciate teachers all year long, I just don't take the time to voice this appreciation, so I am glad to have this week to remind me to do just that.

Sure, there's good and bad in every profession and teachers are no exception. That being said, generally the teaching profession is chosen by some of the most patient, hard working, dedicated, caring individuals on earth. Often, teachers are the unsung heroes. Who among us cannot recall a memory of a teacher who touched our life? I still think about my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Casper. I don't know, maybe I've mentioned this before but I was an awkward kid, a nerd before nerds were appreciated. A target for bullying. Grade school was tough, and I don't think anyone really gets through middle school unscathed, but thanks to Mrs. Casper I can remember sixth grade as my best year in grade school. Mrs Casper took a liking to me, but she was wise enough not to do it in a teacher's pet kind of way. Bullies are like vultures and they'll descend on any new material. So Mrs Casper made me feel important in subtle ways. We had a class pet, a rabbit named Buster, and he used to hop around the classroom freely. Often he would sleep under my desk or even try to grab one of my papers. Mrs. Casper invited me to come after the final bell and help care for Buster. You might think that giving someone an opportunity to clean a rabbit cage is a weird way to show favoritism, but I gladly kept my job even through seventh grade. Mrs' Casper's room was a kind of sanctuary. I would sit in the empty classroom, hold Buster, and talk to Mrs. Casper as she graded papers. She always seemed genuinely interested in me. Once when I missed a science test on account of a stomach ache, she excused the test, again on the sly. She was not an easy teacher, though. Her weekly lab reports needed to be specifically outlined and completed according to the scientific method. I worked meticulously on those lab reports, wanting to please Mrs. Casper. Thanks to her, I developed a love for science. I wish I could find her again and thank her.

My good friend and my son's godmother, Claire works as a teacher aide. She faces many frustrations every day and often needs to be everything and wear many hats, which she does with grace though she may not know it. She really cares about the kids with whom she works and a more dedicated, big-hearted person can't be found. I admire her, and not just because I'm biased!

I want to give a special thank you to the directors and teachers at my son's preschool, although you may never read this. You created a safe, loving positive environment and patiently dried tears on Aiden's first day of school. I am glad he didn't cry. In short, you made his first experience being away from family a positive one and for that I am eternally grateful. I can't wait to send my baby to you in the fall. I know he will be in good hands. Oh, and if you do read this, don't read my "Terrible Twos" post, K?

I'll bet you didn't know that Jan is a teacher by trade, because she is modest like that. Before having children of her own and dedicating herself to stay at home motherhood, Jan taugh often troubled kids at an alternative high school. I think we can all imagine the difficulties of that job and the resonating impact she made (and continues to make as a mom, friend, wife, sister in law, and writer!).

Last but far from least, I would be remiss in not giving a personal thanks to Aiden's current teacher, Mrs. Buckman. Teaching kindergarten is not for the faint of heart; you are introducing kids to formal education. I admire you even more, having had the opportunity to volunteer in your classroom. On a more personal note, this has been a tough year for Aiden, and for us as parents. I am sure kindergarten is a rocky transition for every kid and parent, but even more so for Aiden as his initial experience was negative. I am so glad that we brought him to your school and your class. He has certainly thrived. I remember on the day of the Thanksgiving feast you rearranged the lunch schedule so that kindergarten could have the lunchroom to themselves without the "big kids". You didn't have to do that but you went out of your way to make Aiden feel comfortable so that when the Valentine's Day party came along he was able to eat lunch with kindergarten and first and second grade. He really loved your "chew time". You handle the class with grace and I can see how the kids respond to you, especially Aiden. Thank you for guiding us through a tough year and making a stressful year more comfortable. You went above and beyond your duty and we will miss you!

If you are a teacher, teacher aide coach, or mentor, what I am trying to say is that is how important you are. You are doing far more than just teaching subjects, you are making a mark. I still remember the things Mrs. Casper did for me twenty years ago. I wish I had enough time and computer memory to give a shout out to each and every individual inspiring teacher that I know or have known. Since I don't, I am just going top tell you all that I know you are underpaid and often under appreciated. I know you have to deal with sometimes difficult children and sometimes even more difficult parents. I know that you go home every day exhausted, and that you give up many an evening and weekend to grade papers, perfect lesson plans, prepare for conferences, and attended sporting events and fund raisers. I know that you are sometimes called "mean" by kids who can't see the merit of a paper you have assigned or "unfair" by parents when you don't give Johnny an A+ on his obviously B- paper. I know you have to work within a system and that sometimes, your hands are tied. I also know you are dedicated to each student, to building futures. I know you find joy in what you do even when you also find bucket of frustration. I know that sometimes you feel like we parents expect a lot from you, and we do. It takes a lot for us to hand off our children to you. I know you also sometimes feel that we parents don't appreciate you. I appreciate you and admire you. I know that whether you still teach, are on sabbatical, or have left the teaching profession, you will always be a teacher and you will always be important in many, many lives. Thank you.

An Appreciative Mom

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