Saturday, June 14, 2014

For Teachers Everywhere

The bell rings, and we're part of your world. 
You take us on your journey to faraway, foreign places.
Some of us go willingly and enthusiastically. 
Sometimes we make you prove you know your stuff. 
There are days when we won't shut up, or wish we were someplace else. 
But you stand in that room, and you carry on, hoping we will follow. 

You evaluate us, and it brings out the range of our emotions. 
Tests and quizzes, papers and projects, homework and homework and homework. 
We question why you would have us do it, and yet we have the answer:
"Because we have to."
The hours are long, but so is your patience. 
Day in and day out, we hope you will stop, but you won't. 
You stand in that room, and you carry on, hoping to see the lightbulb go off. 

For a rare few students in every class, the change occurs. 
So hard to see and yet it is so special. 
When the answer is no longer "Because I have to" but "Because I want to". 
Only then do you judge yourself a success. 
It's not measured by banks, exams, or auditors. 
This is greater than the mundane thoughts of money and power. 
You stand in that room, and while your students are many, you teach for but a few.

The next bell rings, and we're off like a shot.
We take the knowledge you gave us, but you know it's up to us how we use it. 
The next class comes in and there's no break for you. 
Another lesson is on tap...another group of minds to mold. 
And like the shore as the waves smash into it constantly, you do not waver, but hold firm. 
You stand in that room, defending your subject against the onslaught of ignorance.

When the classroom is empty and quiet, and you are alone with your grade book, 
it is only then that you realize the true magnitude of what you do. 
You have done work that is sacred, vital, challenging, and essential. 
You have taught for many years, but still, each student is a new experience. 
As the teacher, you are also the student, and with each student you touch, 
you gain something.
You stand in that room, totally alone, but the many and the few are still with you.

Tonight, dear teacher, I write for you.
I write for those whose names I still can recall, and for those many I forgot. 
I write for those who remember my name, and not necessarily because I was a good student.
I write to celebrate you and your sacrifice--
The long hours, the poor pay, and every single barrier to learning that you overcome.
I write because you won't be off this summer, but out earning extra money and planning lessons, 
buying school supplies with your own money and worrying about standardized tests.
And I write because when it comes to thanking the important people in your life, "teacher" isn't usually on the list. 

In honor of Sheila Becker Gailius

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