This week, I’ve been thinking about teachers a lot. Teachers, like Mr. Scruggs, my high school choir teacher who really encouraged me to be the best at what I try to do. Teachers like Mr. Evans who loaned me books from his own shelf so that I could read things I’d never heard of like Larry McMurtry and Chaim Potok. Teachers like Mrs. Kyte who somehow helped me understand enough about physics (I am not a math person) that I really could figure out the velocity of the train coming from 20 miles away against a 5 mile headwind.
Teachers like my dad who asked me every. single. night at dinner what I had learned in school that day and then challenged me to think through that new knowledge in light of what else I knew about the world. Teachers like my mom who tried to teach me piano for a couple of years but then quickly decided her best move as a teacher was to find me another one; who told me once that I really had the “innocent as doves” part down but probably needed to learn more about being “wise as serpents”; who taught me how to write by making me love to read.
Earlier this week, I went to our local Board of Supervisors meeting to support my teacher friends who were under threat of another major cut to the school system that might include the paring away of jobs and also potential pay loss. In this meeting, I heard people call the school system “a sacred cow,” listened to people say their children had been successful in classrooms with 40-50 kids so the teachers should quit complaining about larger class sizes, watched as others claimed the board needs to cut education because we couldn’t pay 3 cents more on our taxes, and actually heard someone say teachers get the summers off (never mind that they work 80 hours a week during the year and often spend the summers prepping their next year’s classes). We would question the credibility and commitment of our teachers because we didn’t want to pay $100 more a year to own our houses? I was appalled.
I am who I am because of my teachers – most importantly, my parents who always, always, always supported those schools of which I was a part. I can remember Mom and Dad at every PTA (or was it PTO) meeting when I was in elementary school. Mom accompanied the high school choir on piano for more than twenty years so that Mr. Scruggs could focus on teaching us how to sing. My dad attended numerous concerts, marching band performances, and academic team competitions to support our educational endeavors. I am a product of a family who believed in education, and so to watch people malign the school system – well, it felt like they were maligning my parents, my best teachers.
I know there are failures in our schools. I know that not all teachers are the best teachers, just like I know all students are not the best students. I know we spend too much on new buildings and new athletic fields and new computers. I know all of these things.
But I also know that I can write these sentences, run this computer, read these books, calculate a tip, be sure I don’t blow something up by mixing the wrong chemicals, remember the years of the Civil War, and be a good citizen in this country of ours because GREAT TEACHERS taught me how to do so.
So to Mr. Scruggs, Mr. Evans, Mrs. Kite, Mr. Muir, Mrs. Summers, Ms. Quenstedt, Ms. Painter, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Walker, Mr. Nail, Ms. Miglarese, Mrs. Paxton, Mrs. Ford, Ms. Straughan, Mrs. Lyons, Mrs. MacDowell, Mrs. Hooker, Mr. Greenwood, Mr. Small, and all the other teachers I ever had, I say THANK YOU. May you always get more than you are given credit for.
Mr. Scruggs leading one of his many choirs.