I didn’t cry on the first day of Kindergarten for either of my boys. When they went to a new school, in first grade, I held in my anxiety and plastered a big, proud smile on my face. I was strong. I was secure.
Today, as I dropped off the kids at school, I was glad to be chauffeuring them, me in the front, them in the back of the car. They didn’t see the tears welling in my eyes, falling down my cheeks. Before driving away after they got out, I paused to watch them walk together through those big glass doors.
I remember Big’s first week at his new school in 2010. People asked me how I felt about it and I replied “I know he’s safe and comfortable there, that’s what matters most.”
My very first week teaching my own classroom, a tragedy happened. There was a high school shooting in the town of Littleton, Colorado, a suburb where my cousin was still in high school. I entered school the next day with fear. I listened to my new leader explain how we’d address concerns and how we keep our school safe. It was that month that entrance-only locks were installed. That month that we first discussed lockdowns and alternate safety plans. April 1999.
It was also that month that I realized that, as a teacher, my job was so much more than handwriting, reading and math.
Two and a half years later, in September, my fellow 4th grade teachers and I brought our classes outside for character development getting-to-know-you activities. About 20 minutes later, our principal found us and asked us to bring everyone inside. She whispered that we shouldn’t tell our classes, but told us about a building in NY being hit by a plane. Suspected terrorism. Everyone inside.
How ironic that we were teaching our students to be good citizens.
Again, we met as a staff and discussed a course of action for this tragedy. Effective conversations, how to best address fears with your students. How to share love and keep them safe.
I had all types of classroom management techniques. One of the easiest was a jar collection. Every time the kids did something right, every time they pushed through something difficult, I’d place a marble or pompom or popsicle stick into the jar, rewarding them. I suppose that teachers should have a personal jar, too. A jar that commends them for getting through something difficult.
I’m no longer teaching in the classroom, but I’m assured that with every act of senseless violence that affects our children, our teachers place another marble in their personal jar, another pompom in their collection, another popsicle stick in their cups. Teaching is a stressful job on its own, with standards and national testing pressures. Parent pressures. Kids wanting so badly to succeed. Adding the fears of walking through the front door each morning… it takes a special person to do that.
On Saturday, after we shared Friday’s tragedy with our boys and saw how very confident they are in their school, I sent two very quick emails to my boys’ teachers, thanking them. And then I thought, every teacher needs a thank you right now. It won’t be easy to walk through those doors and face their days on Monday morning. I know if I were still in the classroom, I wouldn’t sleep all weekend.
And, so, I proposed today become Thank a Teacher Day–encouraging the world to show appreciation to those who give so much, who dedicate their lives to our children.
Today is a day to honor the teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, to walk in the memory of those who died, to remember those who faced similar horrors at other schools. A day to appreciate the teachers who are there for our kids every day of the week and, even, to think of our teachers from years ago–those who help us grow into the adults we are today.
Do something today. Write an email. Deliver a card or cookies, flowers or a sign. Make a phone call. Send a message. Write a Facebook post. I ask that you do what you feel is the best way to thank a teacher. And do it now. Please.
For more information about Thank a Teacher Day and for codes to share these images, please follow this link to Thank a Teacher Day.
© 2012, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.