This Wednesday, at the place where I live, the schools will dismiss for the summer. This is the column that will appear in the local paper that day.
It was a normal day. Nothing in the course of things would have given hint of what was to come.
She was providing the class with a review in preparation for the exam that was scheduled for Monday. The student sitting in the fourth seat back in the second row from windows was staring out them. He didn't seem the least bit interested in what was going on in the classroom. She called his name. He continued to stare. She called his name again. He turned with a disinterested look on his face. She asked him to please pay attention. He looked back out the window. She could have disciplined him. She could have sent him out of the room. She could have challenged him in a dozen different ways, but instinct, born of years of experience whispered to to take it slow. As the class ended and the others filed out she told him to wait. It was during the after class talk he gushed out his despair at the things happening at home. She listened. She supported. He went home, to the same turmoil, but he went home knowing someone understood.
Down the hall a math class was plugging away at an accumulation of problems that needed solving before the end of the period. The teacher asked if the student was still having problems with what they'd been working on last week. The student said she did. The teacher smiled, walked to the desk at the front of the room and returned. The student was handed a piece of paper with an internet address on it. The student was told it was a site that was free but where help was available with math assignments. The student smiled and expressed thanks while tucking the address into a book bag.
In another part of the school a teacher sat in the teacher's lounge, a place designed to give the faculty a small respite from the stress of the day. Here, in quiet, some coffee or other drink and a snack could be consumed as they conversation was exchanged with peers. Today only one teacher was there, not resting, not consuming, but plowing through a pile of test papers, taking time to mark each one with praise or words of encouragement.
All through the day teachers are doing these kind of things, tasks not in the lesson plan, tasks that don't show up on the principal's evaluation, tasks that were not even considered when the decision was made to teach.
And when the day's over, there's bus duty, there are rooms to prepare for the next day, and then there's the rush to get home in time to spend a little time with the teacher's own kids before rushing back to the interscholastic activities like the football game, the soccer game, the chorus concert, the band concert, the school play.
On the weekend there are the trips to the store to purchase the classroom supplies the board of education doesn't provide in the budget but which are essential to teaching.
You know, the really sad thing about teaching is not the extra things listed above. The sad thing is not the pitiful salary or the long hours or even the undeserved frustration. The sad thing about education is that when classes are over for the year today, most of us will not take the time to say, “Thank you for caring about my child.”