Thank You To My Children's Teachers
How do you thank someone who's taken you from crayons to perfume?
To Sir With Love,
This is for all the teachers who, over the course of these past few years, spent countless hours in the classroom with my children.
This is for the men and women who taught, who inspired, who coaxed, who disciplined, who challenged and who -- on more than one occasion -- pulled one of my dears from the precipice.
This is for the Hunts and the Kirchners and the Farnsworths and the Barkows and the Vargases and Cespedes of the school system. This is also for the unnamed, because there are many, and for the ones I've forgotten because elementary and middle school have faded into blessed oblivion.
This is for the coaches who, for an anemic stipend, stayed after school to teach my sons the value of hard work in a way I couldn't -- at football practices under the brutal August sun.
And this, too, is for the counselors who often saw me at my exasperated, desperate worst.
The last of my five children has graduated from high school, and I know, perhaps more than most, that I couldn't have sent them off to the hallowed halls of higher academe without the help of folk who are expected to work miracles. For pay that is often laughable. Under conditions that could be considered dangerous. With less respect than we afford the guy picking up our refuse.
Some parents are blessed with perfect students, kids for whom cracking open a textbook is as exciting as a night out with friends. I, on the other hand, birthed children who ... well, let me put it this way: In high school, my five never heard of a party they didn't want to attend. Thankfully, they changed, grew up, checked in. And though the jury is still out on the youngest two, the older siblings eventually became stellar college students, diligent employees and conscientious, thoughtful people. Without the czars of the classroom, that wouldn't have happened. Moreover, I'm not sure I could've survived.
Cleaning out files the other day, I came across a series of emails from teachers that took me back to some of the more trying moments of my parenting career. A lifetime ago, I had printed them out and scribbled notes to the children, notes I will not include here simply because I want to maintain some dignity.
"In general," wrote this English teacher, "your son likes to read instead of stay engaged with the class ... and he's a handful, interrupting me during the fifth or sixth word of instruction. With that said, I love his ornery ways ..."
And this, from a science teacher for a different son: "I have asked him about his conduct in my class before and he claims that he behaves in all other classes, but that all his friends are in my class and that he cannot stop himself from getting into trouble."
AARGH! Rereading these missives ratchets up my blood pressure.
But alas, this phase of my life is done. No one calls for a parent-teacher conference in college. Thank God. I've had my fill of those -- enough to learn that the best teachers double as surrogate parents. Enough to know that, yes, teachers explain the mystery of molecules and the magic of numbers, but they're also advocates and critics, saviors and avenging angels, gatekeepers to the great unknown.
For this and so much more: thank you.
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