Have you hugged a Teacher today?

Summer Solstice Sunset

Summer Solstice Sunset (Photo credit: erik9000)

Today is Summer Solstice, 17 hours of sunshine in my home town of Edmonton. I may complain about the cold winter on a daily basis for 8 months a year, but once a year it all becomes worth it. Today is the day of endless sunshine, the promise of summer vacation and everyone sings Alice cooper’s ode to all things summer. Sing it with me “Schooooooooools out for summa!” Okay, so it is not quite out for summer. While I am laying in bed, trying to sleep with the sun blaring into my eyes, I will be counting down until I say good-bye to my little lovelies for this year, and begin the process of fearing the next round. That’s right, FEARING. September always means starting from scratch. The life of a teacher is, well, exhausting mentally.

Yesterday I wrote a blog with the intent of supporting my friend Joe who is running 12 marathons in a year. He is actually running 14, because 2 are for other charities he supports and is in final race is called The Dopey. Aptly named for those who run a 5k Friday, a half marathon on Saturday and a Full Marathon on Sunday at Walt Disney World in January. That is a whole lot of running. Now here I thought I was being supportive but actually I was being controversial. Look at me I am controversial! Well done Tourist! Making a name for yourself!!

I wrote about a colleague who I ADORE, we just talk smack at the photocopier and at Starbucks when I run into him there. We all have that friend. The one who is a fake enemy but is really your best pal through thick and thin. He worships the Maple Leafs, and I think that is a mistake. He was misinformed as to the distance of a marathon and mistook it for a fun run. We cleared that up. By no means are we enemies. He is too hilarious for me dis and dislike. On top of that he is one of the finest teachers I have ever worked with and a compassionate human being.

There was an unfortunate event with a reader, who happens to be my uncle. He commented on the intelligent level of this teacher and generalized it into many teachers. I could launch into a rant here, but I received no less than 60 emails and blog comments from friends and  strangers who are, know or love a teacher. My blogger friend SD, came to my rescue like the superhero he is and eloquently defended teachers. There are a few sad facts that surround this controversy.

1. I come from a long and prestigious line of Teachers (my Dad and my beloved Great Grandma) who, in my humble opinion are the finest teachers to ever grace a classroom. (I will explain later what makes a great teacher)

2. Betrayal by a family member is hurtful and shocking. Although I do not feel slighted personally, I truly felt I needed to defend the honor of my colleagues, Father, Gram and every other teacher who made a difference to someone.

3. Intelligence is not the measure of how much information you can store in your head (because I would win that in a kickass Trivial Pursuit game). Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge. Having knowledge doesn’t do anyone any good if you are not a critical thinker. Knowing fire is hot is useful on a science quiz. Using fire as an element in your plan for world domination is intelligence.

I heard a voice echo in my head during my swim today. It was the voice of the finest teacher I know, my dad. Take the High Road Robyn. So I am.

Let’s talk about Job qualifications both spoken and unspoken in a job interview for the position of Elementary School Teacher. This applies to most of the people I work with except me and my team. We are Early Education, that falls under a different category. See…we have learned something new already!

To be a Teacher in Alberta (I cannot speak to other provinces, states or countries – I am a prairie girl) You must posses a valid teaching certificate issued by Alberta Education – this is the government of Alberta. They are bossy and have rules. One of those rules are to receive this accreditation – yes ACCREDITATION – you must have a minimum 4 year bachelor of education degree or B.Ed. from an accredited University, not college, not technical institute, not an on-line diploma from Sally Struthers. To receive this degree you must have done reasonably well in high school, apply to the university and give them all your money.

Now, the University does not care which degree program you apply for, but they do care if you don’t pay. It is pretty much the same cost for a B.Ed as a B.Com. Thus when a teacher graduates, they are called a PROFESSIONAL. I know! Now you learned another new thing! Professionals range from Doctors to Lawyers, to Pharmacists to Compliance Officers. All over the country, these professionals are regarded with respect from peers and clients with the exception of the Lawyers and that is for other reasons, but lawyers work their asses off, as do teachers. Yet the average teacher in Alberta makes $50, 000. Lawyers make way more. Remember, professionals do not get overtime. They are salary.

To get a school board to even LOOK at your resume, you have to have an excellent teacher practicum, done volunteer work and a pile of substitute teaching gigs. Those are NOT PLEASANT people! Then they ask you the scariest possible scenario to see how you would handle it. You pass or you fail – none of this no zeros allowed crap because this is the real world!

Once you are installed in a school, you get you room, your list of children. This is is a minimum of 27. There are bright kids, average kids, special needs kids and the dreaded behaviour kids who ALWAYS end up being my favorites. If you are lucky you get an assistant, but you must have a special circumstances to qualify for that. Then Alberta Curriculum sends you the course requirements for the year. Everything you must cover for these children to pass into the next grade. At no point in time was your intelligence ever in question. These people know you can write papers, answers questions, ask thoughtful questions, problem solve, and follow directions. No one ever gives a Doctor an IQ test before he opens up his private practice. It is ASSUMED he/she knows what he/she is doing.

Then why are teachers expected to know every tiny bit of knowledge available to the human race?

If you expect that from a teacher, you had the worst school experience ever and I am sorry for you.

Teachers come to work as early as 6:00 am (my kindergarten teacher friend does that) and leave long after 5PM. Lots of professionals do this. Do not for one minute think your child’s teacher leaves school when your child does. This does not include the work the Teacher brings home, lots of other professionals do this too. I remember my dad having stacks of essays, tests, papers just sitting by his chair. Every night he would plug away at marking.Not one of these people complain. It is understood that a teacher will put in an extra 40-70 hours a week EXTRA over and above the regular school day.

Teachers stay late to coach, drama, music or any other extra curricular activity your child wants to be in. Then the teacher has MORE work to do, marking, grading, preparing for the next day, planning field trips, planning for YOUR child to go on a holiday (for the record, your child is missing out on instruction time. This cannot be made up from “extra work sheets”. This will affect the final body of knowledge you child gleans from the year. Make the trip a good one and worth your child’s time.)

Now, a teacher rarely stands in front of the classroom yammering about facts. Your child would fail. Teachers need to now teach to all learning types, the doers, the lookers, the listeners, the repeaters and THIS does not include the special programming that is required for special needs, gifted, ESL, other differences that would blow your head off.

A teacher’s role is to take the curriculum, design a program that will be adjusted to the individual needs of their classroom. Encouraging, guiding and supporting your child into finding the information they need, applying it to other situations and retaining this information. Spewing facts has nothing or very little to do with a teachers job, remember google is your friend.

A teacher needs to be a social worker because a child confessed that their dad climbs into bed with them at night.

A teacher needs to be a nurse because your child can’t follow directions and climbed up on the shed roof and fell on their face and split a lip.

A teacher needs to be a police officer because your child took rum from the kitchen in YOUR house and put it in a coke bottle to share with their friends.

A teacher needs to be politically correct and up on every nuance of every culture known to mankind because you might be offended if they touch your elbow.

A teacher needs to be a security guard because lunatics sneak into the school and hide in the girls bathroom.

A teacher needs to be a crossing guard because you can’t make your child’s school safe for them to walk into the school, you create a traffic jam because you are to lazy/busy/hurried to park across the street and walk your child to school.

A teacher needs to run a food bank because you didn’t send lunch or feed your child breakfast. This causes them to not pay attention and your child gets labeled a BEHAVIOR.

A teacher needs to run a clothing shop because you send your child without mitts/hats/socks/shoes/boots/underwear. You have it, but you are in a rush so your child goes without.

A teacher needs to be compassionate because if they do not make a connection with your child, your child cannot learn.

A teacher needs to smile even when their dog dies.

A teacher has to listen to YOU yell at them because your child won’t do their work in school and has to bring it home, now there is homework and you don’t have time to make sure they do it.

A teacher gets labeled mean because they see potential in your child and will demand your child does better.

A teacher will cry every June because your child will make it in the world or not.

Tomorrow when you go to school or even tonight as you reflect on the teachers of your past or the teachers of your present, think about these things that make a great teacher. I am willing to bet you know a teacher who does at least most of the things on this list. If that is the case, you are lucky and did not receive a human to teach your child, but a bonafied TEACHER.

  1. You notice older students coming back to talk to your child’s teacher. This means these children connected with the teacher and have a special bond that was ripe for optimum learning.
  2. Your child’s teacher knows the names of the parents.
  3. Your child’s teacher will take time out of their day to make sure you are having a good one.
  4. Young kids will want to hug the teacher. Older ones will want to “hang out” and talk.
  5. You are welcome into the classroom at ANY TIME
  6. You see the teacher sitting beside a student helping them figure out a problem.
  7. Your child’s teacher is always available via email and will return a phone call on THEIR lunch break.
  8. Your child’s teacher will call or send a note home because something has changed and they just can’t put a finger on it but something is not right. Their spidy sense is tingling and they are concerned about your child.
  9. Your child’s teacher greet’s your child by name as they walk into the classroom.
  10. Your child’s teacher laughs every day.

Did you notice not one bullet about intelligence? Or marks? Or attendance?

If your child’s teacher makes a lasting connection with your child, the bond will never be broken. They will be set for life for learning and always will want to make their teacher proud. Sadly we don’t reach every child, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.

So for all of you who know a teacher, go thank them. You are the great human you are today because you responded to one teacher in your life and they made a difference for you. If you cannot recall this ever happening in your life, I’m so sorry, but we tried. Trying is a two way street.

I am proud to be called Teacher. I stand proudly with my peers and together we know we make a difference in the life of a person, big or small. I go to sleep every night know I matter in the life of someone. Can you say the same? You can if you had a great teacher in your life.