My circle of current friends I’ve known 25 years or more numbers only five. Two of them are teachers, which I consider a high percentage and a significant number. Family members of boomer age who are teachers include a cousin and my sister. My first wife was a teacher.
I believe that one of the biggest dreams of a teacher is to make a difference in a child’s life. Yet how often does that happen? How often do we remember our teachers? Did any teacher make a difference in our lives?
I have more to say about that later, but in this post I want to share part of an email from a teacher friend. She has been teaching for almost 30 years and often wonders whether or not it is worth the effort of having to deal with the day-to-day bullshit of faculty politics, out-of-touch school board policy and parents who just don’t get it.
Then she has an experience like this:
I survived another school year that ended with an unexpected surprise. A call from the office said I had visitors … one of my 8th grade girls and her mom with a very personalized gift basket. The contents were specific to things Olivia remembered during her 3 yrs with me: chocolate (all my jokes about losing my memories when I'm "old" and visiting me in "the home" with chocolate even though I won't remember them or that I like chocolate) with the sincere promise to visit me monthly in "the home" ; a Hot Wheels miniature of a Mustang with the wish that it could be a life-size one for my "love of speed and Mustangs"; a misting fan for all my hot flashes when the AC is insufficient; Motrin to help me through the headaches for the next two years with my sixth graders; a pack of Sharpies in multi-colors so I can help "the next group pass with flying colors".
As I walked Olivia and her mom to the office with gratitude all the way for her raising such a wonderful child, mom told me there was also a gift certificate in the basket. When I returned to the room, I was blasted away to find a $100 certificate to the Mall. Mom told me that the only reason Olivia has remained at this school is because of ME! I teased her and said, "Please put that in writing!"
But the best was waiting for me when I got home Friday evening: A card with a letter tucked inside from Olivia. She told me how I helped change her life, how I was her favorite teacher, how much they always enjoyed my stories and appreciated how I shared my life and stories of my sons with them. But then she wrote me that I had been one of the biggest impacts on her life; how much she had learned from me, how she found herself in my class, and how I did what all teachers dream of: I made a difference in her life. I taught her more than academics, but about character too. I was one of the few people who actually wanted their opinions and made them unafraid to express them; that I respected and cared for them, and that I really don't know how much I have done for her.
She's right: I didn't know what an effect I'd had on her. I just knew that she is a fine young lady who will do whatever she dreams of because she has always had the fortitude to persevere while remaining calm and caring and a good influence on me. I could always count on her to help me through a bad day!
Needless to say, I will remember this to my grave.
How may of us can say we have made that kind of impression on someone as part of doing our job? Teachers are among the lowest-paid professionals in the country; yet what teachers do, or can do, ranks at the top when it comes to the importance of their profession and the impact they have on our lives.
Shouldn’t our teachers be paid like doctors? Maybe boomers can add this to our legacy.
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