Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about a topic that is top of mind for many families: going back to school. Today I want to talk about one of the most fundamental and key aspects to school: teachers. My mom has been involved in schools in many different ways for as long as I can remember. She’s taught, been an aide, been a substitute teacher and of course gone back to school. I’ve taught classes and groups and helped in many types of classrooms too and know how much work in involved, as well as how challenging some students can be, and how rewarding it can be as well as a teacher. As a student I’ve had a few good teachers, some average (and forgettable) ones, and a few bad ones. While there’s a shortage of teachers I don’t believe that’s a good reason to let the bad teachers stay at schools and continue to damage the learning experience for kids (and adults).
First I want to encourage each of us to accept the role of teacher as part of our lives. I don’t think it’s necessary or right to hand that off to those who are officially teachers and say that we don’t have to do any teaching as parents, neighbors or community members. All of us have skills and knowledge that can benefit the youngest of us, as well as the adults around us too. Parents and caretakers especially have a big responsibility to not only make sure their kids are having fun, but also that the learning continues outside the classroom. It’s a great opportunity to educate them about topics that most interest them and in ways that they learn best.
Second, it’s important to support the teachers. Teachers are always in need of books and supplies for the classrooms, as budgets are tight in most schools. I’ve known countless teachers who reach into their own pockets to pay for supplies, and to help students who aren’t as well-off as others. A great way to help would be to sponsor kids for field trips, support the music or arts programs or give gift cards to the teachers so they can pick up what they need most. For the teachers who regularly interact with your kids, you can give them gift baskets with things they like, gift certificates to restaurants, and most important ask how you can support them and your kids in their classroom.
Learning is a life-long activity but our foundations are built in those early classroom years by the men and women who give hours, days, months and years to invest in the next generation of minds. Their impact continues long after a child leaves their classroom and goes out into the world. What are you teaching those around you?
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Henry Adams