This week will mark my 28th Teacher Appreciation Day. Like my birthday, I always come into the day with some hopeful expectations: children bounding into the classroom with chocolates, flowers and homemade cards that explicitly pronounce their great appreciation for teaching, guiding and molding their young minds. They will reminisce about the wonderful units and experiments we have enjoyed together and promise to never forget the contributions that I have made toward their education and futures. The entire classroom will smile angelically and do all that is asked with delight. As a result, their performance on the local, state, and national assessments will show great growth, which was naturally a result of my phenomenal teaching ability. (Can you hear the angel choir and see my halo?)
In all seriousness, I do take this time of year to self reflect and think about MY experiences as a student. I honestly remember very little of my early years, which makes me realize that my little people will most likely not remember me either. I have come to terms with the fact that I work quietly behind the scenes of their education to set seeds and hopefully create a yearning to learn.
I started out in a preschool that felt huge to me. I don’t think it exists any more. I remember singing “Happy Birthday”, coloring pictures that matched the letters of the day, and saluting the flag in a big meeting room. Mostly, I remember my mother making me take a nap after lunch when I got home, and trying to fool her into thinking that I had slept, when I hadn’t.
I’m dating myself, but in Kindergarten, I went to school in a two-room schoolhouse, that is used today as an Administrative Building. The school was built in 1914. About the only thing I remember is the wooden floors. This is a picture I found online.
In the second grade, my school was blown up in the evening by some punk kids. As a result, classrooms were farmed all around the surrounding areas. Classes went to the fire house, lodges, and churches while they rebuilt the school. The only additional thing I remember from that time was that I got to be the “Partridge in a Pear Tree” during our concert, because I sang (screamed) the loudest during our rehearsals.
I’m sorry to say that I don’t remember my Pre-K to 2 teachers. However, I have no doubt that they set seeds that made a huge impact on my later decision to become an educator.
In Grade 3 I had Mr. McGovern and he was the bees knees. As I recall, he was handsome and single, and could give a lot of attention to our busy class. He taught us to tie ribbons for wreathes as a fundraiser for a trip to the Boston Museum of Arts. I remember singing the songs that were on the radio during music class, and we loved that. (“The ink is black, the page is white…”) It was during a time when the teachers were expected to instruct art, PE, music. I’ll never forget the day that we went to the museum. I had on a pair of overalls, and I had purchased a glass horse as a souvenir. When I boarded the bus, the horse fell out my pocket and broke. I was devastated. As a result, Mr. McGovern held the bus, ran in, and bought me another one. To this day, that kind gesture makes my heart smile.
We respected Mr. McGovern and he had NO behavior problems, except for one day… Gordon was acting badly and he got a spanking with a wooden paddle in front of the whole class. He grabbed his back side and rolled around on the floor howling, and that was enough for the rest of us. I smile when I think of our own painted handprints that he had us place on the wall on the first day of school. In case of a spanking, we were to place our hands on our own set of prints and bend over. The intimidation tactic worked, and you couldn’t have asked for a better behaved group of 8 & 9 year olds.
To Mr. McGovern, thank you. You made a huge positive impact on my life and I will be forever grateful.
In the Fourth Grade, I had a beautiful young teacher from Peru with long black shiny hair. She was homesick so her parents would send her care packages that included items indicative of the area. We couldn’t wait to see every new doll or artifact that was mailed. As a result, we studied the culture throughout the year and my teacher had a taste of home all around the classroom. Mrs. Johnson recognized my interest in math and allowed me to work ahead of the class, in the grade 5 math workbook with one other student. I remember being motivated and driven, and I loved learning. A big thank you to Mrs. Johnson, who, like Mr. McGovern, made learning fun and encouraged me to excel in the things that interested me.
Grade 5 was a bit of a blur. I remember FINALLY being placed in the same class as my cousin. We talked constantly, and he couldn’t have placed us further away from one another in the room if he tried. I remember really, really wanting to be selected as Student of the Month, and finally being honored with it in March, just before moving to the farm.
On March 10, 1977, we moved 2-hours north, away from the suburbs of Portland, to a VERY rural area. For the first time in my life, I had to learn to play with just my siblings, because we no longer had a plethora of neighbors from which to play with. The latest styles had not yet made it to the area and I stood out like a sore thumb. I remember rocking my polyester plaid pantsuit on the first day of school and having the kids stare at me. Routines and friendship groups were established and I was absolutely left out and lost. I cried for two straight weeks. I was so homesick. My teacher finally pulled me aside and asked, “What is the matter?” and I poured out my soul. It was then that I became the “Teacher’s Pet” and Mr. Constable’s right hand girl. He made my heart so full, as he asked me to correct and pass out papers. It was then that I decided that I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be just like Mr. C.
Ironically, I did go to school to become a teacher and I did my Student Teaching in Mr. Constable’s fifth grade classroom, the very room that I had been in so many years before. It was in that very classroom at 11 years of age, that I made the decision to act as a public servant and shape lives, just as he, Mrs. Johnson, and Mr. McGovern had done in the 3rd and 4th grades.
I had many more teachers that I admired as I continued throughout my school career. They helped to mold me and shape me into the teacher I am today. Some showed me what I DIDN’T want to be like, and that was important too. So, on this 28th Teacher Appreciation Day, I want to publicly thank those who played an active role in helping to guide, shape, and train me to be the educational professional I am today. Your tireless dedication and devotion to your students has not been unnoticed and I am so grateful for the impact that you made on my life and the lives of others. May there be a special blessing awaiting you in Heaven for your dedication and service.
So this week, as I anticipate the showering of gifts, food, and thoughtful notes, may I remember that whether the children remember me in the years to come, or not, I am setting a seed and playing an immeasurable role in molding and shaping young minds. It is an act of service that is taken seriously, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
To others: I urge you to take the time to thank a teacher. Every card, clothing item with the school emblem, cup, and pen are saved and cherished. Food, flowers, gift cards for coffee, and treats make their day and give them the courage to keep moving forward, doing what they love, even on the tricky days. To my teachers: Thank You. To my parents: Thank You. To my colleagues: Thank you. To my children’s teachers: Thank you. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed.
Happy National Teacher Appreciation Day!