Teacher appreciation week brings about many memories for all of us. For me, school was work. My grades came from any work I decided to put into it, and along the way I always seemed to find “excuses” not to put in that work. Of course, following that decision were results that were not exactly pleasing to my parents. Many find a great joy in learning, in reading, in excelling at academic work. At the association, I am surrounded by many who enjoy learning. I always found school and the work surrounding it, to be a challenge. Not that I failed at school; I did not. But I certainly did not overachieve. I can vividly remember looking at the class syllabus, and in my mind evaluating the path to get through, not to achieve success. A sort of – “do as your told” – kick the can down the road approach, to my education career.
No mistake: education, the value of education, the respect for education, and those that lead the efforts inside and outside the classroom – including post-secondary, were put in high regard growing up in my family. I in turn, instilled that same value of education on my kids. Perhaps that is a “do as your told, not as I did” approach to parenting? In responding to Teacher Appreciation week, I thought it would be of value – not to talk about my struggles and short-comings as a student, but to look at teaching from a kid that sat in the back of the room, mostly disengaged, who struggled through the process along the way. Teachers have impacts far beyond those kids on the honor roll list. Truth is that the skills they have are masterful. It takes a great deal of heart and passion to be a teacher. I was surrounded by teachers growing up, and even now – from my mom, my sisters, my brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, and even my wife. ALL are in the superhero business.
I was recently asked about “my favorite teacher”. Truth is, I am not sure I had one. I always refer to Mrs. Neff, my 3rd grade teacher, for no particular reason. However, I vividly remember this was the first teacher that I felt connected to, and in return, the first teacher that connected to me as well. There is great truth to the fact that very little of what you were taught may stick with you, but how a person makes you feel, will last a lifetime. This rings true with Mrs. Neff, nearly 40 years later and I still talk about her. Raising kids of my own, I saw this with their teachers as well. The light in our kids’ eyes as they talked about certain teachers – it was further evidence that this formula still lives on to this day.
My mom taught the littlest of humans – pre-school! I remember her telling me that her main job was to be a “bucket filler” for her students. As my family is covered with superheroes, I have had a front row seat my entire life to the magic that some people just call “teaching”. I still hold that front row seat as I watch my wife masterfully enter each school year (20 years strong) and build those connections with students. Sure, over dinner, perhaps I come to know “some” names better than others. I often wonder – was that me, for some of my superheroes? I watch those kids run toward my wife for a hug as we are out in public. (They run from me as an insurance agent, but I try not to take that personal!) They either cry with joy with the news they are in Mrs. Spangler’s class or because the year has come to an end? I watch in awe of her connections decades later, as she connects with her previous students. Many welcome that connection with a hug, as she recalls their names and perhaps even the family connections they had. My wife is a superhero … do not tell her I said that about her.
Further proof – that the saying “THOSE WHO CAN DO, THOSE WHO CAN’T TEACH”, cannot be further from reality.
Further proof – that even “back of the classroom” students like me can find a connection with a teacher and remember it for a lifetime.
Further proof – your students may not remember what you taught them – but they will certainly remember how they made you feel.
Further proof – that the title of “Teacher” does not do this role enough justice in our lives.
Further proof – The power of relationships, connections, and the way you make someone feel lasts decades, if not a lifetime. If it is not a superpower, I do not know what is!
I am confident I learned a lot along the way. Looking at how my 25-year career has gone in insurance thus far – the foundation is relationships. I am 100% certain I learned that from a teacher.
Not all superheroes wear capes – Thank you Mrs. Neff!