Bad behavior in schools can be really frustrating—especially when the bad behavior is among the adults. I don’t know if it is warmer weather or exhausted lack of patience, but I’ve heard more stories lately of teachers not-at-their-best. And most of these stories center around students who just don’t fit the mold–the creative ones with the questions that take us off track, the immature attempts at humor that backfire, and the distracted interests in anything but the lesson at hand. Just when I was ready to write a rant about bad teacher behavior, the tragic stories coming out of the Oklahoma tornadoes reminded me that teachers are the ones who literally throw their bodies between children and danger, who spend hours every day in a sea of demands—many of them impossible to meet—and who do it, almost always, with smiling faces and kindness. And so, today, here’s to them, the mostly unsung heroes of sticky books, lost shoes, 15-minute lunch breaks and prom dramas. Raise an apple or your glass of drinking-fountain water in a toast.
- Here’s to the teachers who look at a resistant student and see a frightened child (of whatever age), sure success is impossible. And here’s to the day they find success together.
- Here’s to the teachers who hear an off-track response and think, “How could that student understand the question so this makes sense?” And here’s to the new ideas they find.
- Here’s to the teacher who pushes past the obvious answers and won’t give up until everyone is actually thinking. And double cheers for the days that the quest for thinking and understanding makes everyone forget test scores, at least for a little while.
- Here’s to the teachers who celebrate many answers, many views, and many questions. And here’s to the classrooms those teachers create, safe for curiosity, exploration, and wonder.
- Here’s to the teachers who recognize the students who learn differently– the teachers who are willing to take a breath and wait, to see the intelligence in a different way of knowing. Here’s to the adults who recognize they don’t have all the answers.
- Here’s to the teachers with listening ears and kind hearts, with understanding to see the challenges in young people’s lives and the wisdom to know “when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.” One of the great dilemmas of teaching young people with challenging circumstances is to know when to help them push on and through, and when it is more important to address the problems of life than the problems of algebra. I stand in awe of the teachers who master that balance.
There are so many more. Here’s to the teachers who tutor through their “free” periods, buy Kleenex and pencils with their own funds, and build a lesson around the first snow of winter. Here’s to the veterans who boldly forge down new paths of technology and the technology natives who recognize its limitations. Here’s to teaching—the profession most basic of all. What would you like to toast?