I talked with a teacher friend last October and got a new view of today's classroom. I'll bet other teachers would share similar stories, maybe worse.
Let me recreate that conversation and we can learn together.
One caring teacher looks at her class
I asked my friend, "How's it going with my favorite third-grade teacher?"
She made a face and said, "All I ever wanted to do was teach and I've loved it for almost twelve years. This year every day I dread walking into my classroom."
"Because I have so many troubled kids and their home situations spill over, big time. Like the boy who lashes out at everyone because his dad was killed in an accident a couple of months ago. I really love that boy, but he just wants his dad and I can't make him stop hurting.
"The mom of one sweet girl is on chemo and not doing well. Her daughter can't think about anything else. I can speak love and hope, but can't make it better for her.
"One youngster constantly falls asleep in class. He and his brother live with their grandparents. They seem dazed at how their life turned upside-down overnight. Nice people, but I can't make them understand he needs a regular bedtime.
"Several kids have moms or dads who are long-term unemployed and can't find jobs. Some families lost their homes through foreclosure and other kids fear theirs will. These youngsters don't know what comes next."
By now my friend's eyes were shining with tears. "Several parents sometimes drink too much, even do drugs now and then. I hear the stories and see the fallout in their kids."
"Day after day, so many little ones with such big problems. No wonder they can't concentrate in class!"
She swallowed hard, then said, "I feel so helpless when all I can do is smile and hug and love them. I try to get us through the class material, but it's a struggle. By day's end I'm as limp as an old dishrag."
(For the record, my friend teaches in a good school and not in an economically deprived area.)
Sometimes we forget teachers have personal lives
Are all teachers great teachers? No. Are all unselfish and noble? Of course not.
Teachers are imperfect human beings like the rest of us. Most love working with kids. Many are married and rearing familes, dealing with their own stresses and financial challenges at home.
Suppose we stopped pointing out faults and problems and looked for ways to be helpful. For starters:
- Show up for parent-teacher conferences and back-to-school nights and all the rest. (Many moms and dads do not.)
- Speak well of teachers and school personnel to your children. If you hear something that troubles you, quietly follow up on it with the teacher or principal and get the facts.
- Attend sports events, band concerts and other performances. Cheer and clap like crazy.
- Volunteer. Most schools welcome people of any age with willing spirits and a heart for kids. Just sitting and listening to a child read, being a supportive friend, could change a life.
- Speak positively about education, teachers and school personnel when you're out and about. (Save gripes for another time.)
- Attend school board meetings and get informed. Reformulate your complaints into suggestions and bring them up there.
- Talk to young people in your church as if they were real people and be a friendly presence.
Put kids first
If we only complain about taxes and teachers' unions and everything wrong with education we're not helping. That takes hard work and getting involved.
You and I, in our small ways, can be a force for good, to help teachers teach and children learn. Step one is to become encouragers.
If we don't, who will? As Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16:
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." --verse 5
I'm learning, too,