Saturday , March 2 2024

Labor Day – Teachers’ Work Is a Labor of Love

‘Men at Lunch’

On this first Monday of September – Labor Day – we celebrate all workers. Their efforts each day in all jobs ranging from janitors to executives make a difference in our daily lives. There will be ceremonies and parades to commemorate the day, and famous images like the iconic Men at Lunch will be flashed on screens as media cover the holiday. Unfortunately, a select group of people – teachers – are not usually included in the mix.

Teachers – from nursery school up through higher education – hold one of the most important jobs in our nation. Handed the mantle of educating our youth, teachers are given a sacred duty to transfer knowledge to children. It is an increasingly difficult job because parents, students, administrators, and the public expect more and more from them.

As an educator myself – I have taught in elementary school, high school, and college and have been a school administrator – I value and admire the work these unsung heroes perform on a daily basis. While you may come across one or two bad apples in every bushel, in my experience I have encountered a majority of teachers who do the job well and are dedicated to their profession and the students they serve.

One teacher can make the difference in a child’s life. I can recall those teachers who have made a difference in mine, and over all these years I understand why – it was love. It is easy to spot when someone hates their job – it is apparent when you encounter them, but it is also clear when someone loves their job. In those teachers who made a difference in my life, I witnessed a glow all around them as they taught – they loved what they were doing!

Something emanated from them as they stood in front of a classroom, and it was love – love of subject, love of students, and love of their chosen profession. Over the years I have seen this in teachers I have worked with or supervised. It is apparent in every syllable they enunciate and in their actions. It is visible in the way they maintain their classrooms and the manner in which they create their lessons. Mostly, it is obvious in the way they interact with their students. 

When I used to interview prospective teachers, I would ask, “Why do you want to be a teacher?” Amazingly, some were totally honest and said that they wanted the summers off and vacation breaks. Though I valued their honesty, I knew they were in it for the wrong reasons. In many interviews the candidates would come out and say, “I love teaching.” Many didn’t have to say those words because it was evident in how they spoke, and they shared images from their portfolios of students’ work and their bulletin boards that obviously emanated that love.

There are many difficult jobs, and we should honor all those people who do them every day; however, there is one job where the lives of others can be influenced for the better now and in the future – teaching! The really good teachers know the heft of responsibility that has been heaved onto their shoulders, but instead of flinching they stand tall and rise to the occasion.

As school starts this week in many places across the country, please take into account the importance of the work that teachers do. If you have children and are bringing them to school, show their teachers respect and let them know how much you value what they do each day. First impressions are always remembered, so let them know in the very beginning that you appreciate their work.

So, happy Labor Day! You should be aware that while you may be enjoying a last barbecue, going to the beach, or swimming in a pool, teachers are getting ready and preparing for the first week of school. The most important thing to remember is why they do this – it’s a labor of love!   

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His new novel, 'Unicorn: A Love Story,' is available as an e-book and in print.

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  1. Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Really great teaching involves imparting knowledge and experience not written in any one book. In addition, teaching amplifies what’s written in the text so that learning is reinforced from different angles. Students benefit by having varied assignments like book reports, speaking presentations, term papers, labs and small group discussions.

    Teachers learn from the classroom but parents can provide input not necessarily ascertainable in a classroom. I’ve found that parental input counts because the parents know their children better than the teacher from having all sorts of real life experiences.

    Right now, the NYC Public Schools are in the throes of having to decide the fate of Gifted & Talented Programs,. High schools like Bronx Science have typified these types of programs with a rigorous entrance exam and exacting standards for admission. Budget constraints have reduced the number of seats available to the community at large.

    There are few easy choices. One choice would be to build more schools for Gifted and Talented students.. Another choice would be to give these students early access to college courses and credit in institutions like CUNY.

    Altering the admissions criteria is more difficult because it involves awarding seats on bases other than performance on the Specialized High School Exams. Handbook {}

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dr. M. I have friends and relatives who teach in NYC schools, and there is a real worry about the path forward. That said, most teachers in these schools are reflected in the words of my post. They give a damn; they love their students and schools, and they try to do their best each day. The administration has to allocate more to keep ALL programs going to give the kids the best education possible.

      • The way forward is to have students read more books. There are vendors like Pimsleur who can guarantee functionality in any language within 10 days. The NYC Public School System should hire Pimsleur for teaching students who learn English as a second language. The need is acute because 130 languages are spoken in NYC.Then, ELA and reading scores might go up. The introduction of Pre-K has been helpful because 3rd grade students taking the ELA exam will have had 5 years in school (Pre-K to 3rd) rather than 4 years in school (K to 3rd) as has been the case for decades. Educators can make changes to the specialized exam by including more spatial questions, simple logic and the translation of concepts into workable products and processes. Finally, our school system has to evolve into a place which develops careers outside of formal academe and the professions.

        • I totally agree with you, Dr. M. Reading and writing need to be taught at every grade level. Kids need to read more and have access to all kinds of books.

          There should also be instruction in practical areas like finance, giving students a real understanding of money and how to invest and save money.