Well, that’s that. Kindergarten graduation went out with a bang — that is to say, with one kid refusing to wear a cap and gown, another kid requiring a handheld escort during the processional, and another cracking jokes the entire time he stood on the risers.
These kids know how to read, every single one of them. Their assessment scores are unprecedented in the school, all of them. I could not be prouder of their academic achievements.
Their little characters and budding social skills are, shall we say, somewhat lacking, but I’m too exhausted to go into that.
Exhausted is the word of the day for me lately, especially this last month of school. Exhausted. Teaching was hard. Disciplining some of these kids was harder. Dealing with all of that when all everybody wanted to do was go swimming and play their Xbox was hardest.
When I finally got a chance to lie spreadeagle on my bed, in front of the fan, listening to T-Swift on Spotify for an uninterrupted hour, it occurred to me that teachers deserve more respect than they currently get.
You know how veterans and members of the military (rightly) get instant respect from everybody, regardless of politics, or whether or not they were deployed? Our society is conditioned to honor their sacrifice, to recognize it, make much of it, because we value the work they do for our country.
We say “thank you for your service” whenever we find out somebody served in the military. We honor them at baseball games and at church. We have national holidays and songs and rituals. We are reminded what we owe them — our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I think a similar societal respect needs to go towards teachers. I think teachers need that sort of recognition. I think our society needs to remember what we owe them.
Teaching is peacemaking. Teaching is making life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness possible. Teaching is bringing hope to places where there’s not much of it. These are more stereotypically “feminine” virtues, but I think our culture needs to honor the peacemakers just as much as the warmakers. What good is the noble sacrifice of our military if there is no good left to sacrifice for?
Teachers are preserving that good. They fight for virtuous, educated citizens, against the odds of poverty, bad behavior, bullying, horrible home situations, and whatever else they face every day in the classroom.
Having experienced this fight, I know what a sacrifice and an emptying this is. It is a slow death, in a lot of ways — not only of the physical body, worn down through trying to keep up with the demands of the administration and the state testing and the homework and the kids, but also of the spirit, worn down from all the discouraging setbacks.
I think we need to start acknowledging this peaceful war waged in our schools as just as urgent as the war waged overseas. I think we need to honor this “feminine” sacrifice, in a similar way we honor the “masculine” sacrifice of those who fight to defend our country — not to challenge the military’s sacrifice, not to denigrate it, but to raise up the importance and the necessity of the sacrifice of those publicly involved in shaping the souls of the next generation.
Teachers’ challenges aren’t just little boys throwing a tantrum at wearing a graduation gown. They’re entering the lives of children who get threatened at gunpoint on the street at eight years old, who solicit sex at age six because their parents didn’t teach them any better, who commit suicide at age seven due to bullying. They’re trying to build a future for children whose moms have more babies just to get more welfare, whose parents’ proudest accomplishment is graduating eighth grade. They’re trying to give hope to the kid with rotted teeth and an ever-present stench, the student who’s embarrassed that his mom can’t buy anything for the end-of-school party, the children who can’t play outside of their two-bedroom apartment because it’s too dangerous.
They’re trying to give kids a decent education even when administration piles on unnecessary busywork and the state requires too much and nobody ever listens to the teachers, who actually know what’s best for their students. They’re trying to give kids a decent childhood, even though recess is mostly nonexistent now and even kindergarten is rigorous and kids have to set in plastic chairs all day.
There are real demons out there in society, and teachers stare them down every day with determination and kindness to spare (sometimes).
Please thank a teacher. Thank them for their service like you would one of the honorable members of our military. They deserve public respect for their public service to our country and community. And they could use a little encouragement right now.