Thank You For Being Givers

Yesterday I was privileged to hear one our senior boys do a presentation at a neighboring school. Jesse Haynes is a recently published author of young adult fiction.

Jesse Haynes, student and author
Jesse Haynes, student and author

He was talking to groups of middle school students about his experience setting goals and publishing a book.

He also told them that his greatest inspiration for writing came from his 4th grade teacher. “I don’t know if you ever think about it,” he said, “But teachers give up a large part of their lives to prepare us for the rest of our lives.”

Wow, I thought. What a fitting tribute to the inspiring influence teachers have on students!

This week is Teacher Appreciation for many schools across North America. At our school, we’ve been thanking our teachers with yummy meals and treats. But no gift seems to be good enough for the kind of sacrifice teachers give every day in and out of the classroom.

By spring of the year, most of us are simply ready for summer. So this is an especially good time for letting teachers know they are appreciated. When I look at the sacrifice so many teachers make for this profession, here are four questions someone from the outside may have difficulty answering about the teaching profession:

1. Why would someone want to spend their day peppered with questions and conflicts from dozens of different directions while feeling they barely have time to do what they really love–cultivating learning?

2. Why would someone invest months or years of planning, instructing, coaching, and counseling knowing that government-mandated testing will never measure what their students have really learned?

3. Why would someone give up the freedom of using the bathroom at will or eating leisurely lunches in exchange for creatively managing dozens of little people through tasks they would normally not do on their own?

4. Why would anyone choose a career path where his or her salary neither matches the amount of value they provide nor generously compensates for the time they dedicate to their craft?

I guess the answers to those questions may depend on the teachers you ask. I would imagine many of them would speak to the intangibles that make teaching worth it. Like parenting, you don’t always show up because it’s required or even because you always like it; you do it because you believe it’s a calling.

Let’s shoot straight: it’s not easy to clean up spills on your classroom floor or break up a fight between angry boys and then turn right around and keep smiling while you teach essay writing, solve equations, or finish grading papers!

But teachers are amazing. And no gift seems to be good enough for the kind of sacrifice they give every day in and out of the classroom.

As Jesse was talking to the group middle school students yesterday, I could see something magical happening in their faces. They began to raise their hands and ask questions. The lights were coming on behind their eyes as they wanted to know his favorite kind of movies, or what he planned to do with his next book.

They were being inspired. Jesse was giving. The work his 4th grade teacher had done had come full circle. She had inspired him to write. Now he was inspiring others.

Isn’t that how giving works? You may not always see the fruits of the seeds of inspiration you are planting. You may not get to see the “rest of the story” of how your small acts of kindness bless and benefit others.

But giving is just that way. You don’t always give because you plan to get. You give because it’s beautiful to watch the effect it has on others. And in the process, the gift keeps giving back.

For all of you who have chosen the calling of teacher, thank you.

Thank you for the early morning tutoring, the tireless instruction, the after-school events, the late-night grading.

Thank you for the fair, firm, consistent ways you teach.

Thank you for being patient when others fail to recognize the silent ways you rescue and change lives.

Thank you for being givers.

Now It’s Your Turn
This would be a great day to reach out to someone who has inspired you and tell them thanks. Share this post with a teacher you love, or better yet, write them a quick note of thanks. Let’s let teachers know they are appreciated!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker