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!