Back when I was teaching, there would be these passing moments where everything seemed to slow down and come to a halt for just a few seconds. You know, like a slow-mo effect. There would be a very peaceful buzz or occasional murmur of my students whispering at their tables. Then, just as quickly as it started, it would trail off into the lulling sounds of pencils scratching and pages flipping. The most beautiful thing about those moments, is that I wouldn’t have to say, “No talking please,” or “Use your indoor voices.” It was as if all our thoughts, the states of mind of 30 different little people, had come to a temporary treaty. All the misshaped gears in the classroom were moving together.
We were all just in a trance, engaged in whatever task was at hand — completing the lesson, finishing a chapter in the library book, jotting down homework from the whiteboard, or taking a quiz at the computer. It was in these moments, where miraculously (the stars were aligned!) no one seemed to have a question, comment, disagreement or even gossip to pass along, that I was able to think absolutely clearly, as if my thoughts were being read aloud in a room by someone else. That voice would say, “I wish their parents could see them as they are right now.”
I think it’s such a revealing glimpse to see kids in their “mini career” environment. Their “9-5,” you might say. Little briefcases in hand, throwing their coats over their chairs and getting settled down in their cubicles every morning. Pencils would be laid out. Papers sorted into stacks. From 8 am to 3 pm or 7:30- 2:30 or whatever the school day is, these small balls of energy are just themselves. How they choose to interact or carry themselves as people is a testament to their parents and family, that core upbringing.
Most importantly though, it would dawn on me how much time I spent with my kids (as we called our students).
I knew each student’s quirks — who had an immaculate desk and who would have last week’s crackers stowed behind books.
I knew their strengths — who was reading three grades ahead, who was the best handball player, and who never missed a single homework assignment.
I knew their insecurities — who was alone at recess, who never saw their parents, who couldn’t multiply, or who was running the household (not by choice).
Teachers spend so much time with our children learning all these things so that they can help these little people become amazing big people — productive members of society, self-learners, capable thinkers, risk-takers, athletes, scientists, creative spirits … and moms and dads. Unfortunately, in so many cases these days, teachers spend more time with “their kids” than the parents do. Parents are working two-jobs to survive, or maybe just because they are so busy trying to afford their lifestyles, they forget to appreciate their lives.
So I wonder, how well do you really know your child? How well do you know his or her teacher? Is this a person you trust and have faith in to care for your child from 8-3? Because teachers do much more than just “care for” or “care.” They grow your kids, they push, build bonds, and pick them up when they’ve fallen. So, don’t be afraid to talk to, write, call or just chat with your child’s teacher. Get to know them as your kids do.
When the time comes for Noob Baby to march off to school, lunch in one hand and briefcase in the other, I’m going to hug her teacher and thank him or her for taking care of the most important thing in my life. I will thank the teacher for getting to know my child and learning her quirks, strengths, weaknesses, and some of the silly things that make her laugh. Because that person will get a glimpse of my daughter in a way that I won’t be able to.
We pay our teachers so little, but we entrust them with our most prized possession. We thank our teachers by giving them pink slips, cutting budgets, and cramming more kids into tiny classrooms, but we still expect them to grow our children, don’t we? It’s strange the way we markdown and put a discount tag on the important things.
Well, I wrote this post in preparation for tomorrow — as Friday, March 13th is Pink Friday in CA. Pink Friday, the day we tell these educators, protectors and “growers” of our children, that their place in society is expendable. We declare, “Thanks for taking care of our babies, and making them smarter. Now please be on your merry way.” We, as a society, apathetically accept that the future generations of this country, our leaders and decision makers, can have a mediocre education. We’re OK with that.
As for me, I will support my fellow teachers tomorrow. I will remember all my students and wonder who they are today.