Dr. Bette Marquez Austin
Teaching is the most unappreciated profession on the planet. There is no profession that can be acquired without teaching. Teaching is the foundation of all we do. Recently, when I was asked to give a speech, I thought about my audience and realized that all of them were early childhood teachers. These may be the most important teachers besides parents, but all teachers are vitally important. Because we know that you cannot build anything unless you have a solid foundation and they provide that foundation!
Some people are just noticing this. Research now tells us that at the end of second grade we can predict whether a child will graduate from high school with alarming accuracy. This makes pre-school critically important!
We all recognize that parents are the first teachers but we also know that they need help with the job, some more than others. We know that those children that start kindergarten ill-prepared will not be successful unless they get extra help. Headstart and other early childhood programs are uniquely designed so that students start on a level playing field.
As an educator, after I left the classroom I went back several times to remind myself what teaching was like and because I like teaching. The last time I did this I taught Algebra I in a local high school. I must tell you that I was soon reminded of the things I had conveniently forgotten. Number one was the fatigue factor. I was totally exhausted by the end of the day. I did not want to see my own kids by the time I got home.
Secondly, I had forgotten, that you have to be on all day. Unlike other jobs where you can sit at your desk and do your work without much interaction if you are in a bad mood, tired or having a bad hair day. If you teach you cannot be effective if you take your mood out on the kids, so you are emotionally spent at the end of the day.
The third thing I forgot is how underappreciated teachers really are. There was a time when teachers were held in high esteem and parents respected them, as did the community but this is no longer true in many school settings.
I can remember having parents and other stakeholders show total disrespect toward me. I remember a parent asked if I had gotten my teaching credentials at Walmart. I replied, “No Ma’am they were out so I had to get a rain check.”
Of course part of the problem is that we have very young parents now, babies raising babies, and anyone who ever sat in a desk feels they can tell teachers what to do and how to do it, just look at our legislators.
Teaching is very hard and we cannot thank them enough for all they do, because you truly impact our future. Schools are not like factories where you can send raw material back if it does not meet your requirements. We take all comers and as I have often said, parents aren’t sending you their bad kids to see how you do, they send the best they have and we have to take them as we get them and help mold them such that they will have successful futures.
The following is an acrostic I created just for teachers:
T is for the tenacity, that all good teachers have for they must be determined to maximize the potential of their students.
E is for every, good teachers know that every child is important and different and we must accept this diversity and teach it.
A is for arduous, a fancy word for hard work. Good Teaching is never easy. It requires all our energy and commitment every day.
C is for compassion and caring. No Good teacher is successful without these two characteristics.
H is for hugs, Good Teachers give Hugs, whether virtual via praise or real; all kids need to be hugged each day.
E is for Effective, Good Teachers must be effective such that they inspire their students to succeed and they must evaluate their effectiveness daily so they can monitor and adjust to achieve maximum effectiveness.
R is for Remember, A good teacher remembers that they hold the future in their hands and they should ask themselves daily would I want my child to have a teacher like me?
S is for success, Good teachers are successful in facilitating learning in the classroom academically and teaching life lessons, for in the end we often remember the life lessons more than the subject matter taught.
Finally, I would like to leave you with this quote from Henry Adams: “A teacher affects eternity; she can never tell where her influence stops”.