Teachers Deserve Our Ultimate Respect

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As new school years begin across Brazos Valley school districts, there’s renewal and a fresh spirit of optimism in the air. It’s hard to contain the excitement of a kindergarten student or first grader as they approach a new school year. They’ll be meeting teachers who they’ll consider “transformational” in their lives many years from now. Teachers are due all of the respect we can possibly offer them.

Teachers will guide, train, discipline, instruct, and shape the young minds in their classrooms and they, too, approach the beginning of the school year with a sense of excitement. Which of their students will overcome shyness, learn a tough subject that someone fears is too tough for them? When your teacher believes in you, any student can change from borderline to exemplary.

I remember a motivational speech I heard a local professor give years ago. He said, “Teachers are able to convince children that they can accomplish any goal they put their minds to doing. One teacher saw that early-year testing showed her students as the lowest achieving group in the school. She knew immediately what she would do.”

The professor continued, “The teacher stood up in front of the class and said to them, with a huge smile on her face, I’m so proud of each one of you this year. I’ve seen your initial test scores. Each of you is so smart that by the end of this school year, I’ll bet you all have the best test scores in the school!” Naturally, by year-end, those low-achievement students blew the roof off with incredible test scores. One positive word can wipe away twenty negatives.

Teachers change lives every single day. Outside of parents, grandparents and other family members, teachers spend more time with your children than anyone. We owe them unending gratitude for choosing to teach and for working to get the best results from students.

What we the public generally don’t get to see are the hundreds of hours that teachers spend each summer in training, planning, and thinking about your children, from kindergarten to high school seniors. You might think they have the “whole summer” off, same as your children, but nothing is as you’d guess it would be.

Throughout the summer, some teachers agree to teach summer sessions of various courses to help students catch up for the coming year, or other regular classes for students trying to get ahead. Plus there are week-long training sessions that teachers must take as part of their job just to hear from the individual school districts and local leadership what school policies are and how anything has changed from the previous year for the coming year.

Then, there is the time spent in clearing out all the items from their classrooms at the end of the year. All the furniture is removed from the room by the school team and a major cleaning and repair of furniture takes place where needed. We often don’t think about what’s going on in a schoolroom when our children aren’t inside. But it takes an important team to keep that room and its contents maintained in perfect shape.

Teachers often spend their own funds to improve their classroom’s appearance and take their own vacation time getting their classrooms ready before the “Meet the Teacher” night ever happens. When I was in school, I thought the classrooms were “always” the way they looked year-round, year-to-year. It’s easy to take it all for granted when you’re “just” the student.

It can take a minimum of two to three days for a teacher to get a classroom ready for the coming semester, uncompensated for the extra work, even in a high school classroom, where you don’t think you need anything fancy on the walls or on the shelves to inspire a student to learn. Today’s students of all ages respond more enthusiastically to attract visual stimuli, bright colors, large, bold printing, and many helpful visual aids than in my early school days. Then again, I was happy with a 24-pack of Crayon Crayolas and some new notebook paper. Today’s children learn so much more at their ages than we did at ours.

Chelsea and I have friends who teach at all levels and heard what some of the best parts, and the most demanding parts, of their jobs are, I know I have newfound respect for how much they love teaching and how many hours they are happy to put in, for professional development and to inspire the children in our community.

No matter where we are in school, if you’re in middle school, you remember an elementary school teacher who made a difference in high school, it might be a first-grade teacher you recall. Or, if you go to college, there might be a high school teacher who inspired you. How that happens is that a teacher studies and knows the student as well as the student studies and knows the material they’re learning. And they mention it to the student that they really seem to have a gift in that area.

Again, a teacher is a person in authority with the power to inspire, guide, direct, influence, and shape the learning attitude of our community’s students. I like to think of them as VIPs every day. I may have given one or two of my teachers a challenge when I was in high school and, if so, I officially apologize, retroactively. But I appreciate what you did more than ever now that I’m an adult.

As the students begin today to board the buses that will fill our streets, we will think of them as we drive in school zones and stop behind those buses as kids get on and off. And, as we’ve already seen in town this past weekend, the Aggies and Blinn students are back in town.

I smiled to see a group of young men and women coming out of Sports Cuts over the weekend. The amount of hair (left) on top of their heads signaled immediately what their academic status was (freshmen have buzz cuts; sophomores have a bit of hair left on the top, etc.). It brought back memories of my grandfather as “Fish Jones” and all the facts about the history and traditions of Aggieland he had to learn in a very short period of time or face a certain number of pushups for failure to do so.

As we are in traffic and patronizing restaurants and businesses around town, let’s just remember to add 15 more minutes into our schedules while new and returning students figure out it’s easier to ride a shuttlebus than find a parking space at Blinn or A&M.

And, our streets are still under construction in certain places, but they’re working as fast as they can to clean up and move on. We all would benefit from just smiling and being patient and great things will happen. Yes, these next two weeks will take a little patience, but for all the students whose teachers will inspire them to greatness, isn’t it worth a little bit of patience?