Nine months ago I held my little five-year-old’s hand and led him up the stairs to a new phase of life. I squeezed it tight and held my breath, because secretly I was just as nervous as he was. His Thomas the Train backpack bounced full of glue, crayons and erasers with each step. Was he really old enough for this? He suddenly seemed so small! Was I ready for this? I certainly didn’t feel like it. I gave him one last long hug and watched as he disappeared behind the kindergarten door. Books lined the wall, the letters of his name already printed across the desk on a colorful tag. I left him that day as a shy, timid, scared little boy without anyone he knew and in an entirely new world he’d never experienced.
As I waited by that same kindergarten door nine months later, I could hear that little five-year-old voice chatting with his friends about the spider trap they’d made on the playground and how today would be the lucky day that they’d get something good (they had bated it with some nice, fat, dead flies they’d found, so of course they had high hopes! Oh, the joys of having boys). I could hear his teacher calling them to the rug for last minute directions before they walked out the door for the summer. The walls that had over the past nine months been covered in pictures and stories written and illustrated by those young and aspiring authors and artists were now bare. As we walked to the car I held that same boy’s hand, but he wasn’t the same little one I’d kissed goodbye months before. He’d grown. He’d made friends, learned how to read, found confidence, bravery, and strength. Something magical happened in those nine short months.
As we walked to the car, we passed the buses full of students anxious to get home and celebrate the beginning of their three-month break. The sidewalk was filled with teachers waving and jumping at the children they’d just spent the last school year thinking about, planning for, stressing over, helping, teaching, and loving. Hands waved back from inside the buses, and, I admit, I got a bit teary-eyed as I looked on. I cried because THIS was the magic I witnessed every day for the past nine months. A teacher that cared. Who saw my shy, quiet, timid boy as so much more, and helped him find his confidence, unleash his creativity, and fed his desire to learn. But she didn’t do it just for my son, she did it for all that walked through her welcoming kindergarten doors each week. Each one came out of her class that final day as more than a first-grader. They walked with friends, a backpack full of stories, journals, pictures, and crafts, minds brimming with knowledge, a hunger to learn, tenacity, spunk, and spirit. Can you really put a number on that?
Each year we send our most precious commodity behind those brick walls. We expect them to walk out each day loved, mentally nourished, disciplined, and emotionally cared for. We expect them to succeed, to grow, and to learn life skills. Teachers may have summers off, weekends to rejuvenate, fall, winter and spring break to relax, but for nine months they dedicate their lives to our most precious commodity. They think about them tirelessly. They spend many sleepless nights fretting over lesson plans, grading papers, furthering their own knowledge in order to meet the ever-changing needs of the classroom, and just plain worrying about our kids (probably this more than anything else!). For nine months we trust our loved ones in their care, and they know it. Time and time again they rise to the occasion, often without the help and support of those that should be backing them every step of the way.
I’m sure we can all look back on our years within those classroom walls and think of at least one teacher that touched our lives. That changed us for the better, that believed in us, trusted us, read to us, taught us and loved us. Are they not heroes? Did they not leave this world a better place by the hundreds of little humans they taught? For my son, his teacher changed his short, little life. She gave him the wonderful gift of a love for learning. She boosted his self-confidence, helped him see his potential, and gave him a solid foundation that will benefit him for years to come. She put up with his five-year-old goofiness and that of his classmates (which, I can testify, can be a bit overwhelming at times!). I can’t thank her enough for all of her efforts on behalf of my child.
Teachers are simply amazing. Our children are the future, and they, along with parents, are shaping them, molding them, and loving them into what they must become. Is there a more important work than that? To all those that educate and love our children, thank you. You do so much for so little. You really and truly are heroes.
What teacher has touched your life and helped you become who you are today?