The Dirty Truth About Teachers

The Dirty Truth About Teachers

It takes a village…

As a parent, I’m understanding this more and more. My husband and I are not the only adult influences on our children’s lives. We’re thankful for that.

Isn’t our mission from the moment our kids take their first breath to prepare them for and move them toward independence? How excited are we when the little one first catches our attention with a well- timed “Da da!” (All three of my boys said this as their first word. Traitors! All of you!) First words are cute, but the ultimate goal is communication and forming opinions and sharing them, right? How many posts on Facebook are of those first steps? How many pictures of the first days of school or kindergarten, middle school, high school, even college graduations?

Brad and I relish every milestone we get to experience with our boys, but we raise our kids with the end in mind- we prayerfully expect contributing members of society who personally love the Lord.

But we’d be foolish to assume that we can accomplish that on our own. I recently read a book called Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (Joiner & Nieuwhof). Nevermind the fact that there is a pretty funny misprint for Chapter 4, and by that I mean that all but the last couple pages of that chapter weren’t actually printed- in my copy anyway. Naturally, this was the chapter I attempted to read first. I think that was a sign. I’m just not sure of what yet.

The concept of the book is summed up in its subtitle: Connect Your Family to a Wider Community. Simply put, the authors stress the importance of using the village concept in raising your children. They explain how to use the church to help raise your kids- not just as something you attend once a week to leave feeling uplifted but as an active, fluid, meaningful fraction of your child’s life.

I’m a teacher. My mother’s a teacher. I’ve been immersed in education my whole life. It’s a second language to me. So I don’t expect everyone to understand the nuances as I do, but I wonder… how would these authors relate the role of the teacher in molding their children? Would they even consider it as a part of the equation? They explicitly convey the idea that they are speaking of spiritual matters and most parents wouldn’t trust their children’s educators with that responsibility, wanting a more direct impression on such a fragile topic.

But I’ve got to be frank here. Teachers are influencing the children in their classrooms whether they are intentional in doing so or not. I’ve heard people quip that teaching is not just a job; it’s a calling. Having been in the profession for ten years myself, I earnestly believe that statement is true.

Let me tell you why.

Teachers spend more time with their students, thinking about their students, preparing for their students than they often do with their own family. Teachers get to know students intimately (yes, even the year I had 179 of them!) simply because of the amount of time spent together. We learn their likes and dislikes, moods, academic needs, social needs, yes even spiritual needs. A whole plethora of things the general public would be shocked to know that we learn about the kids filling our seats each day.

We can tell by the way your student walks through the doorway of our classroom in the morning if there was enough food in the house last night to feed him dinner.

We can tell by the way your student leaves our classroom at lunchtime if she’s worried about finding a table to sit at in the cafeteria with people who will accept her.

We can tell by your student’s mood changes that it’s his weekend to stay with the other parent.

We notice your young elementary student is feeling sick because she’s less enthusiastic than usual about going to P.E. She’s shy. She won’t tell us she doesn’t feel well. She needs us to ask her.

We can tell by your student’s facial expressions when she practices reading that an undiagnosed learning disability is causing her stress and demands further investigation.

We can tell by your older student’s silence that his girlfriend broke up with him this morning. And while there are important learning opportunities we refuse to let pass by today, we know we’ll need to approach them creatively with him.

We can tell who is sleepy today because they were unsupervised last night.

We can tell there are some students who need us just as much, but we won’t worry about them like the others. They never seem overtired, but we know their parents stick to a predictable routine and provide lots of structure at home. But they still need us to understand them and “read” them and continue the positive influence that began in the home.

As a teacher I’ve experienced the full gamut Texas has to offer. I’ve taught in an affluent district surrounded by million dollar homes. I’ve also been privileged to teach at a couple of Title 1 schools, where the biggest battle we faced every day was the culture of the neighborhood.

Regardless of the clientele I’ve served, I have realized some truths about education. One, there are genuinely good kids all over the place. Some of them come from privileged families but remain humble and hard working. Some of them rise above their circumstances and are determined to be successful. Two, there are genuinely good teachers all over the place. Some of them come from privileged schools but remain innovative and hard working. Some of them rise above their circumstances and are determined that your student will be successful.

Teachers obviously aren’t in the profession for the money. We’re not looking for recognition either. We teach because we’re passionate about people.


Consider the impression educators make. They have more influence than you think.


Filling in the Gaps


It’s about 10:30 pm. I’ve finally flopped into my favorite seat in the house;  long ago our family designated it “Comfy Chair.”  It’s one of those oversized chairs– not a loveseat, not an armchair. One and a half cushions of pure goodness. There are several seating options in our living room, but as any good creature of habit will do, I navigate only toward Comfy Chair. I only had a chance to grab my phone and click on the facebook icon. (what? So, I often fill my downtime with mindless, needless, digital gossip. In those moments, I have a real need to know what masterpiece that girl I went to high school with– who I never really talked to– but she has a couple of cute kids now– created for dinner!)

Before I can even catch a glimpse of the leading post, I hear #2 prancing down the hallway. I don’t notice right away what he’s got in his little clenched hand. I’m too distracted by the fact that he’s obviously been awake this whole time– I thought he was angelically cuddling his favorite bear and dreaming his sweet four-year-old dreams. He jumps in front of me sprawled in Comfy Chair and assumes his most menacing action pose– legs spread, one scrawny hand planted firmly on his hip, the other stretching a crumpled piece of paper as high as a superhero can reach. I’m not sure which superhero he was imagining himself to be at that moment, but it must’ve been the one who wears Lightning McQueen pull-ups and Spiderman socks to sleep in.

A deadly combination, I know.

Fast forward to the part where I am half-dragging the exhausted boy back to bed. It does cross my mind that he may actually possess superhuman abilities, especially the one to detect and demand my attention the micro-second I seem to relax. I take the crumpled paper from him as I wrangle, bribe, encourage, and coerce him back into bed.

(Don’t judge. You have SO been that mother. You were last night. At about 10:35.)

Predictably, I return to the living room and flop back into Comfy Chair. Out of curiosity I flatten the paper out to find the typical scribbled artwork only the parents of preschoolers can appreciate. But I’m shocked to see that across the top of the page is my son’s name in what I can only guess is his own handwriting. He obviously labored over each letter, and to his credit only one of them was upside down. Braden wrote his own name? Since when does Braden write? How did I miss this? Mother of the Year, right here folks.

After much anguish and a revealing conversation with his preschool teacher, I learned later that week that Braden did indeed know how to spell his name and, more than that, had been practicing how to write it for weeks. I knew NONE of this! As a mother who doubles as a reading and writing teacher to junior high students, my lack of this knowledge was unacceptable! My kids are born with exposure to reading and writing from me, the mom-teacher.

Exit stage left.

Cue The Almighty.

God reminded me– ahem, like a slap in the face– that He is filling in the gaps for me as a parent.

Filling in the gaps.

When I’m too tired after a day of teaching eighth graders to be the patient, understanding parent I’m supposed to be to my own three kids.
When Dad is taking care of business being Coach.
When I, as the dutiful coach’s wife, am taking care of business being everyone and everything else.

When we’re doing the best we can, but we don’t feel like it is enough. When our four-year-old has learned how to write his name and it wasn’t because we sat down and taught him.

He fills in the gaps. God brings loving, patient, understanding people into our lives to influence us and our children. Braden was ready and capable of a pretty big milestone. Without me even realizing what his need was, God was already meeting it through his preschool teacher.

What a sweet relief to remember that God will “fill in the gaps!” He takes care of our needs, and bless their hearts, those of the children we’re called to raise. We aren’t called to be perfect. We aren’t called to always have it together. We’re likely to have some near-misses along the way. But in our weakness, He is made strong. We are reminded of His glory and how He really does love us and cares about the little things in our lives when He fills in our gaps.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.