Right before I got sick I was in Africa and flew in to D.C. to stay with my parents before I headed back to Portland. That Sunday we were invited to have lunch with the Korean brothers and sisters that meet in the house next door to the chapel. I am always enthused over Korean food, so of course I was very pleased to share the meal. I was sitting on a bench at a school-style long table, chatting with some new friends so I didn’t notice the conversation going on next to me.
Mom told me later that the kids sitting next to me paused in the middle of eating sweet rice cakes as one of them gestured in my direction asking, Who’s that? A young boy (is he a teen already?) who used to be in my 4th/5th grade Sunday School class when I subbed for KAR before I moved simply said, “Teacher” – and that was enough explanation to satisfy their curiosity re. why a stranger was sitting in their midst.
Just that one word, “Teacher,” warmed my heart. I consider it a title of honor, and so should you. I know several excellent educators who I would be thrilled to send my child to at school, if I had any. As an English major I considered becoming a teacher before I realized that I probably didn’t have the classroom management skills to not be overrun. But I did teach Sunday School as the substitute or secondary (I might’ve taught for a couple months at a time to give the primary teacher a break) for the Kindergarten class and later, the 4th/5th graders. I also taught ESL in Oregon.
One of my favorite moments ever was when I taught my first 4th/5th grade class. I had no idea how to approach this new age group. I was more accustomed to 4 and 5 year olds, who aren’t that choosy. Plus, I had recently started Business School so I was all about PowerPoint presentations and white-boarding frameworks to illustrate a concept. Yeah, that didn’t go over so well. After I had finished blathering on about “the takeaways” from the Abraham and Isaac narrative, a student piped up and said plaintively, “Ms. K usually makes it more…interesting… for us.”
Ha ha ha ha! That was a good wake up call – I had to get to know my audience and learn how to best communicate with them. So I did. I think there was some improvement, and in the end they liked my PowerPoint slides, I promise. But some people are just gifted in knowing how to reach a child’s heart/mind, and don’t necessarily have to practice and experiment like I did. Those are the kinds of people you want your kid to see 5 days a week, X hours a day at school. Bonus points if that teacher is on point and you can tell (s)he is paying attention and has a sharp mind. You want that kind of person to teach your child important things like reading, writing, and arithmetic – and it sure would be nice if that sharpness of mind rubbed off on your child.
Did a teacher ever say something life-changing to you? A teacher told P (in my Care Group in OR) that he was smart enough to do XYZ – he’s remembered it for a lifetime and it was a critical childhood moment. After this inspirational moment I told my Care Group that my 2nd grade teacher told me to “loosen up.” They all laughed, presumably because they didn’t find that too hard to believe.
More recently, my teachers are therapists, and during moments when they can tell I’m discouraged that my body parts aren’t cooperating, or I’m wondering if/when I’m going to look like something approximating able-bodiedness, they’ve come out with words of encouragement that you don’t learn at Therapy school – they just come out of the human heart. I’ve wanted to say this for a long time, but I can’t remember if I ever did, and I’d like to extend the reach of this statement to encompass both medical professionals and teachers: Thank you for choosing such an honorable and worthy profession.
Another great teaching memory – this one’s from ESL: