I am thankful to be able to report that passionate, dedicated teachers abound across the state of Texas, and without doubt, the nation as well.
And thank goodness for that. In the face of low salaries, inadequate funding and a society and government that has little interest in education, there are still teachers who are willing to sacrifice their own welfare in order to teach. Blessings on them!
For the past few days I have had the pleasure of reading applications from teachers for a prestigious Outstanding Teacher Award for teachers at all levels throughout Texas. The applicants provided an explanation of how they teach and their most significant accomplishments, as well as letters of recommendation from colleagues, supervisors and students.
Every single applicant shared a critical characteristic. They cared. Across the board, they wanted to improve their students’ lives. Each of them had different methods and different ideas. Some used discussion, others activities, others involved the students in outreach programs. Still others took their students to museums or invented fascinating ways for students to explore history or art or language or literature. All of them, without exception, wanted to help their students succeed. They also were willing to share their knowledge and ideas with their fellow teachers. As a result, they were praised by their principals, their colleagues and their happy students. Without exception, they had a lasting impact on their students that will never be forgotten.
It is true that there are some teachers who don’t give their best. Tired, cynical, worn out from fighting rules and testing and unfeeling legislatures, they just hang on for their retirement. But those are not the majority. All too often we hear negativity about teachers and teaching. That horrible old saw that suggests “Those that can’t do, teach.” Or the implication that teachers have summers off. Do people really believe that teachers do nothing but lay around for three months out of the year in hammocks sipping mai tais and martinis with no concern for their students?
News flash, folks! Teachers (for those who don’t already know) are basically unemployed during the summer. Almost all teachers, unless they are married to oil barons or are independently wealthy, have to get summer jobs. Several years back, while I was teaching at Sweetwater High School, my sister and I had bought a house together. When she got married and moved out, I could no longer afford the house payments. I complained to my principal who just laughed. “Get a second job,” he said. “All teachers have them.”
It is truly a criminal shame that our government cares so little about the education of our youth. Budgets for teacher salaries are cut, funding for schools is ignored, and school buildings fall into disrepair. Occasionally, a bond will pass to provide for a new school but there is griping and grumbling about the costs. People in retirement communities maintain they don’t have to pay taxes for better schools since they have no children. People in wealthy suburbs refuse to share the cost for schools in low-income areas. Local communities refuse to accept funds from the State government because the money comes with strings attached.
Walker County is particularly unfortunate. School funds come from property taxes. Much of Walker County is owned by either Sam Houston State University, which pays no taxes, or the Prison System, which pays no taxes. The few old families who own huge tracts of forests and fields often have agricultural exemptions. Which leaves the burden to the small land owners. Little wonder they refuse to vote for School Bonds.
I would argue that if we don’t all pay, and pay big, for education, we will be left without an educated citizenship. The next time a community votes down a school bond election, remember you are voting for higher crime rates and more unemployment. For those elderly retirees who say they don’t have to pay for the education of our youth, they should think about their need for nurses to crank up their beds, change their diapers and feed them
as they (and we) sit drooling in our wheel chairs.
Last week I wrote about inspiring coaches. I read that NC Coach Roy Williams expressed his appreciation for Coach Buddy Baldwin, a coach from his early years in basketball. Coach Baldwin, he said, was one of the greatest influences of his life. Like Coach Williams, all of us have had coaches and teachers that changed our lives for the better.
For all those teachers and coaches out there, let me remind you that you may not win all the glories for yourself, but you never know who you are going to inspire to greatness. So keep on teaching, keep on coaching. Don’t give up! Send those bright shining stars that you have polished on into the firmament. They will reflect their light back on you and you will revel in their glory.
We should all be thanking our teachers anytime and all the time.