Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched emerge on social media the flood of pictures of the first day of school. Today is my day. In fact, I will experience two first days of school this year as my younger son is in junior kindergarten and won’t start until next week.
Last week, we got to meet my oldest son’s teacher. We brought all of the supplies into the classroom and got a chance to see where he’ll spend the next year. We found out who will be in his class and who won’t be in his class. We reconnected with friends that we haven’t seen all summer, and so did my son.
I’m not sure if all parents are in “Observation Mode” the same way that I am on that first day of school, but I kind of think that they are. I was watching and observing everything. Who’s in my son’s class? Who might be a distraction? What’s the teacher like in the brief time that I meet her? Is this a learning environment that he might thrive in?
One of the biggest observations that I made was about the teacher. In the brief time that we were in the classroom, we saw at least half a dozen students from previous years come in and hug her, bring her gifts, or just say “hi” to her. That was a very telling statement to me.
I thought back to the teachers that I couldn’t wait to see when I got back to school in the Fall. They were the ones who had made a difference, who had impacted me for the better, who had left an indelible mark on my life. They had invested in me and I was better for it.
You don’t see students coming back to see teachers who meant nothing to them. I never did. I might casually wave to them in the hallway, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to say hello to them.
Based on all that I saw, I’m gathering that my son’s teacher is one who has made a significant impact in the lives of her students. Honestly, if you’re a teacher, I know that you’re not in it for the money. There’s got to be something else that drives you. Either that, or you’re just a glutton for punishment. I have too many friends who are teachers and have heard too many of their stories to actually think that they’re there because they’re on their way to their first million.
As I reflect on this, another first day of school, I can’t help but be thankful for this teacher and so many of our teachers who make such a significant sacrifice in order to invest in the lives of our children. As a pastor, so many people accuse me of only working one day a week, so I can commiserate with the teachers who are accused of having “cushy” jobs where they only work 6 hours or “have summers off.”
I am thankful for every teacher that took the time to invest in me, to encourage me, to push me further than I was willing to push myself, and saw potential in me when others might have given up or just turned away. I am thankful for their selfless sacrifice and the way that they cared for the kids that they taught almost as much as if they had been their own.
So, next time that I think about coming down hard on a teacher for what is or is not happening in my child’s class, I need to think about all that they’ve given to be where they are, all of the hours that they’ve spent planning and thinking about my children. Not to say that they’re not capable of mistakes, but I just get the feeling that as much as the first day of school means to us, it probably means just as much to them, and probably something very different.