Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Hats Off to Good Teachers

Last night I spent the night at my daughter's house. My daughter is a kindergarten teacher. My grandchildren attend the same school she teaches at, and they normally drive to school with her every day, but today, being the first day of school for the new school year, my daughter needed to be there extremely early and because my son-in-law worked all night, I spent the night to be there in the morning to help my grandchilren get up on time, eat breakfast, get dressed for school, teeth brushed, hair combed, etc. It was nice for me to see them first thing in the morning and especially on a morning when they were so excited for their first day of school. I couldn't help but feel a little bit bad though that my daughter had to miss them getting ready on their first day, but she will see them at school so that's a huge plus. Their daddy arrived home from work in time to drive them to school and after several hugs, kisses, and good wishes to them for a good day, I drove home, with memories floating in my mind of my own children and their first day of school years ago.

 My daughter wanted to be a teacher as far back as I can remember. As a child she was always interested in books, paper, arts and crafts, and would play school or library quite a lot. As a teen, knowing that she would be a teacher one day, she began to buy kids books from used book stores, garage sales, etc. and once in college it continued and grew from used books to new books and other things she knew she'd need as a teacher one day. If you are not a teacher yourself or know someone quite well who is a teacher, you have no idea what a teacher puts into "her" kids or her classroom. By her kids I mean her students. They are on her mind all the time. There is nowhere I go with her that she's not talking about her classroom, what she needs to pick up for her classroom or her students, ideas on projects, reading material, etc. Her job does not end when she walks in the door. Far from it. The kids are always on her mind and planning and preparing for each day of school is just a part of her life, and the life of her family.

 I always chuckle, and in reality I admit to also getting annoyed, when I hear people say that teachers have it easy because they get the summer off. That is obviously a huge perk of being a teacher, but it's not exactly true that they get the entire summer off. I work from home, and it always annoys me as well that people think I can take time off for whatever I want, whenever I want, when in reality I probably work (or at least should and need to work) a lot more hours than 40 per week. Just because you work from home it doesn't mean you don't work. And so, teachers DO work in the summer, they just do a lot of it from home. And they also go into their classroom often during the summer and for long hours to prepare the room, supplies, educational materials, parent handouts, etc. for the school year. If you think that little elves show up at night to get that room ready well sorry, you are misinformed.

 I offered to sharpen pencils for my daughter to help her out. A very small, small piece of the puzzle, but it's something at least. When I offered she said "Sure, but I'm going to go buy a new pencil sharpener first." Now I knew for years that she spends a TON of her own money on classroom supplies but really hadn't thought of the fact that even things like pencil sharpeners for her room are purchased by her, not the school. In prior years, the pencil sharpener would overheat after only a few pencils being sharpened and we'd have to wait until it cooled off to continue. So she brought me pencils, lots of pencils, and I started to sharpen them and after six pencils the new $35 pencil sharpener decided not to work any longer. It was late at night and luckily I had an electric pencil sharpener that my son had used during his college years. Of course, after six or so pencils it would overheat but I was determined to get them done for her so I was up into the wee hours of the morning but finally all the pencils were sharpened. This is such a teeny, tiny little item that people barely give thought to. Have you ever thought about the pencils on the table of your child's classroom and wonder who sharpened them? Have you wondered who paid the $30 or so to purchase the sharpener, or the paper cutter, the staplers? Have you thought about all the books in the classroom library and who purchased them, who categorized them, who wipes them down every summer so they are fingerprint and germ free? Do you think about who paid for that snack your child ate at snack time when he forgot to take a snack? Do you wonder who paid for the mittens he wore when he came to school without his because he just couldn't find them? Do you think about the glue sticks she uses on her art projects? And did you know my daughter estimated that each child uses about 24 glue sticks per school year? Do you know who pays for those? What about the games, toys, the cute, clean rugs in the room, the curtains, the books with tapes, the wall posters and name tags and name plates on the tables. If you think your school is paying for these things, guess again. At least for my daughter, at her school she is responsible for paying for all of these things and a whole lot more.

 The teachers do have a class list of supplies that parents can donate, and thankfully there are some parents who do, and some who are generous in it. But there are always more things that are needed as the year goes on, and once they run out if nobody donates more, it is up to the teacher to purchase them or the kids will do without. Basically the school supplies pencils and paper and teachers supply everything else except text books. If someone took all of my daughter's personal belongings out of the classroom it would be quite empty except for tables and chairs. And so, by saying this I am merely trying to enlighten those who do not know this. When your child comes home excited because they made a cool art project or food treat at school, think about who paid for, went to the store for the supplies, carried the supplies for it from the store to their home, to the school. Think about who cut out all those little pieces for the art projects, who ran off, laminated, cut out and stapled all those little booklets he brings home throughout the year. I know some of you reading this might think "Well, that is part of the job!" Please understand that much of this is not part of the job. Your child could basically have a very bare classroom with a teacher who doesn't bother to purchase the cute wall posters and name plates and nice books. Your child could have a teacher who only makes art projects using construction paper and crayons because it's the only supplies the school provides. Your child could have a teacher who doesn't worry if your child has pants to wear if he has an accident or snow pants for the cold day when he forgot his at home or mittens to keep her hands warm when she lost hers. Your child could have a teacher who doesn't care to spend her money on extra snacks for students who forgot to bring one. Your child could have a teacher who does the bare minimum required of them. And so if you are the parent of a child blessed with a good teacher, please appreciate them and let them know you do! A simple thank you goes a long way.
I can honestly and sheepishly admit that when I was a parent of young children I did not give thought to what my child's teacher does. I think for starters I just assumed the school gave them plenty of money for all the things they need in the classroom. I had no clue how much of a teachers wage goes toward her classroom supplies. I didn't stop to think about all the preparation the teacher does at home for that art project or science project. I didn't think about the time it must have taken to get the classroom looking so cute and colorful and appealing. I didn't think about all the bags and bags and boxes and boxes of supplies that teacher carried from the store to her home to her car to her classroom throughout the year. I didn't think about her staying up until after midnight dyeing macaroni for a project the next day or printing off papers needed for a lesson. And so, I hope I have given you just a wee bit of insight into why we should all show appreciation for teachers and the work they do to give our children a safe, happy environment and a good learning experience so they can grow to be educated adults. And I hope if your child's classroom has a list of supplies you can donate, that you will consider giving what you can. Hats off to teachers everywhere today and every day! Thank you to all teachers! And to all the students, may you have a productive and happy school year!