I’m not sure that I’ve said it yet, or if I’ll remember to say it in the future, but thank you.
Thank you for doing more than just teaching my children their ABCs and multiplication tables and state capitals. Thank you for being their champion, their guardian, their protector for six hours each day. As parents, we tend to forget that you are often the only person who can protect our child from harm when they are not with us, whether it’s when they are crossing the street or roughhousing at recess or, like last Friday, when the unimaginable happens.
I don’t know why I never really stopped to realize that before. Perhaps I was naïve, or perhaps I just didn’t want to think about it. All I know is that it took a horrible tragedy like last week to open my eyes.
We literally entrust our children’s safety with you, often blindly, because – let’s face it – we’re pretty much strangers. Sure, we know your name and you know ours, and we meet twice a year for conferences, but I don’t really know much else about you, like where you went to school or what your favorite kind of ice cream is. But five days a week, I hand my child over to your safekeeping and I know you will care for my child because that’s what you do.
They say it takes “someone special” to be a teacher – or to work with children in general – but I think that’s the understatement of the year. It takes someone noble and selfless to literally give herself to her job, to her students. It takes someone brave and strong and courageous to shield her students from harm’s way, with disregard for her own personal safety, to think about comforting and protecting her young charges rather than own well-being. It takes someone committed and passionate to come in every day, regardless of contract negotiations and budget cuts and other external distractions, and teach our children the fundamentals that will shape their future.
I’m not sure I know many other people willing to sacrifice as much as the teachers in Newtown did, nor do I know many people who routinely give what teachers across the country give every single day … and often without much gratitude or appreciation or fanfare. We often tend to lose sight of what they offer our children, getting bogged down instead with the petty details: why didn’t Johnny get an A+ instead of an A, or why did Sally lose five minutes of recess.
The events of December 14th presented parents like me with the sobering and incomprehensible reality that when we send our children to school in the morning – lunches packed, backpacks perched perilously on their backs, one fleeting hug before they scurry on to the bus – that it might be the last time we ever see them, that they might never return home. The thought is truthfully too horrific to imagine.
Although I am still reeling from what happened — and feeling outraged at so many things (the lack of gun control in this country, the indisputable need for more widespread mental health services for the millions of troubled adolescents who need care, but don’t receive it) – I want to stop and say thank you.
And not just to you, but also to the aides and school administrators and guidance counselors and librarians and custodians and bus drivers and everyone else who cares for and keeps a watchful eye on my kids during the school day.
Thank you for your hard work and the sacrifices that you make, not because you’re looking for accolades, but because you simply love teaching. Thank you for using your free time to stay after school to help with homework or advise the drama club or just lend an ear to a troubled student. Thank you for protecting and loving my children when I cannot be with them. Thank you for helping them grow, for challenging and motivating and inspiring them. Thank you for keeping them safe.
Please join me today in thanking a teacher, whether it’s a thank you note for your child’s teacher or an email to a former mentor or a post on your Facebook page. They are our unsung heroes.