My baby boy is going to be a teacher!

My baby boy is going to be a teacher!

My baby boy is going to be a teacher. He is in his last
year at Wichita State and will make someone a fine science teacher. He knows 10
times as much about good instructional strategies as I did at his age; what we
know about good teaching now compared to 35 years ago is amazing. There will be
struggles and challenges, but he is setting forth on a career that is
inherently good, and more intrinsically rewarding than any other.

Last week we were talking and he mentioned that he heard two
of his best Emporia High School teachers were retiring this year.  He said, “I should write them a note and let
them know how much I appreciated them” I told him that is the greatest reward
any teacher ever gets, knowing they made a difference, and inspired another
generation to pick up the torch.

So when I think about American Education Week, I am reminded
not just of all of the great educators I have known, but of all of the
students. It is so much fun to run into kids who remember you and some small
kindness you afforded them.
I have shared with my son that some kids never leave you. It
might be the young man who loved to discuss politics and couldn’t wait to tell
you about his greatest high school moment — attending a Rush Limbaugh show.
It is also the kid who took a swing at you, and had to be taken
from school in handcuffs. Ten years later, I went in to pay for my gas and that
kid was working behind the counter. There was no avoiding him, but maybe he
wouldn’t remember? Nope, he remembered, “Mr. Heim? Hey, you should know that
I’m not an a—–e anymore.” Words I will never forget because of the pride
with which he spoke them.
Then there are kids who haunt you. Ty, who I took home after
he got in a fight, haunts me. His house was a hovel. His dad was passed out on
the couch, guarded by a wolf-like creature. I took his advice and did not try
to wake dad, because Ty let me know the beast was very protective. I put the
suspension paperwork on the kitchen counter, and when I looked over to write a
note, noticed the counter top was moving, covered with bugs.

I don’t know what happened to Ty. I wanted to load him back
in the car and take him home. I think about that kid a lot. The burdens that
life put on him, that no 13-year-old should have to bear. Is it any wonder he
wasn’t motivated at school? That he got in fights? What more could we have
done?

When I think about American Education Week, I think about
the joys of being an educator, which are great. I also think about the kids who
we teach, the good and the bad. I am proud that my son wants to be a teacher
because it is not for everybody, and it is not easy. Educators help all kids,
and most of all the helpless kids. Educators deserve more than a week honoring
them.