A Prayer for Teachers

It’s that time of year again. In Texas at least, teachers are reporting back to duty this week. Good-bye slow mornings with no alarms. Good-bye afternoon movie dates and post-lunch naps! (I’ve always been told to sleep when the baby sleeps, and even though my youngest is nearly three, I still live by that creed. Mama takes her sleep SER.I.OUS.LY.) Good-bye mid-week grocery shopping. Good-bye late nights with one more cartoon and a few more snuggles. Good-bye to my crush, Jimmy Fallon. We’ve had a hilarious summer and I’m pleased to see your finger is healing nicely, but now reality calls. Until next year…

From one educator to another, I want to say to you, Dear Teacher, that I pray for you this week. Leaving the luxuries of summer behind is a yearly adjustment for all of us. In just a couple of weeks, you’ll face a roomful of new faces and try without success to remember what it was like to wake up after the sun instead of before it. As you look into your students’ eyes for the first time in a week or so, I want you to remember that you were lifted up in prayer and readied for this moment.

Dear Teacher, those kiddos (even the big ole’ seventeen- and eighteen-year-old ones) need you this year. They need to hear repeatedly that they are worth your time, that they are capable of big things, and that hard work will eventually pay off. They need you to speak these truths to them so many times that your voice becomes their inner voice. When they tell themselves, “Yes, this is hard! But difficult does not equal impossible,” they hear you. They’ll give it a try… for you. Because they think you believe they can.

Teach, they’re watching you this year. Don’t forget that they’re learning important life skills, the ones that have nothing to do with Reading or World History. They see how you treat other staff members and how you deal with conflict yourself. They see how you face the day with work to be done while your personal life crumbles to pieces and brings you to the brink of emotional instability. They’re learning from you, every moment, just by being near you. How should I politely tell this person they made me mad? What do I do when I’m afraid to go home after school? How do I admit I need help? Be intentional with your integrity and your character this year, Teacher. Your students need you beyond your subject area.

Dear Teacher, I pray that you will be what your students need you to be this year. Maybe some of those boys need a patient teacher, one who can always greet them with a hug and a smile… even in April or May. Maybe a few of those girls need a listening ear or a kind word to speak louder than the belittling ones they hear outside your room. Maybe your students just need you to remember that they’re still kids. And inevitably, kids are bound to act like kids. It’s not always convenient when data demands need to be met. But we’re not raising a generation of numbers, are we?

Teacher, I pray you’ll enjoy your last moments with your family or friends before the year steals your time. I pray you will be fortified and ready for the students God will bring through your door this year. I pray you will have the support you need and the confidence you deserve to have an unforgettable year.

And because I know my prayers will never fall on deaf ears, I pray for the REALLY important things too: I pray there won’t be a line at the copier when you’re in a hurry. I pray it won’t jam when the line is seven people deep behind you. I pray you receive Starbucks gift cards at Christmas instead of another candle. I pray your name is accidentally left off the committees list. I pray your duty is minimal, and your raise is significant. I pray for extra hours in the day when you need to grade research papers. I pray for the rest of your assessments to be online multiple-choice quizzes. I pray for patience when you need it, rest when you’re weary, more laughter to share with your  students.

Here’s to another stellar year, Dear Teacher!

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Elementary sho’ aint easy!

beer and school

I miss the good ole’ days.

Half-day kindergarten. “Pirate Special” served in the cafeteria on Fridays. (Ooh-wee the best part of that steak finger plate was the buttery roll!) The legendary book fair. The annual Halloween carnival. Your favorite teacher was all of your elementary teachers who hugged kids instead of standing in the hall with crossed arms and a scowl.

I’m almost 34, but just like you, I easily remember my first teachers. Ms. Shipp in kindergarten who wore a short, black bob; Mrs. Lawson in first grade, who still attends my parents’ church and still makes a point to speak to me when I visit, Mrs. Benton in second grade who gave me licks, which was apparently a first for both of us (another story for another day, albeit a funny one.)

Those days seemed easy and slow.

Nothing like the impression elementary school leaves me with now.

And I don’t like it.

I trudged to Open House with my second grader tonight. Thankfully the teachers seemed to have adopted the frozen smile by the time I finally got close enough to shake their hands because the block we walked to get to the school’s entrance in this Texas evening heat already had me dabbing my upper lip, the whole while I’m saying silent prayers that my mascara wouldn’t arrive before I did. And I won’t even go into detail about all the other places that were dripping by the time we walked the gauntlet called Everyone-in-the-entire-district-is-in-this-hallway-at-this-exact-moment. “Brennan?  … Brennan? … BRENNAN? Do I have mascara on my cheeks?”

“Scared? You’re scared?”

“No, ma.scar.a.”

“What’s your scara?”

“Oh. Nevermind then!”

Brennan proudly led the way into his “Homeroom” Teacher’s room. I’m air-quoting that phrase, Homeroom Teacher. More on that in a minute.

We exchanged the usual pleasantries; Brennan went through the usual routine of finding his desk, locker, etc. I signed the usual papers, accepted the usual parent letters that I promised I’d look over when we got home. No big deal.

Until I got home and looked over the parent letters.

Big deal.

Included was Brennan’s schedule. Sure, it was printed on colored paper with a big, fun looking font something akin to RAVIE. But I’ve taught both middle school and high school and my second grader’s paper was nothing shy of a child-friendly version of a Schedule, like the ones teenagers use.

His classes weren’t labeled as 1st period, 2nd period, and so forth. But every 42 minutes, his class is apparently going to rotate to a different teacher. In the course of a typical day (admittedly including PE), he will spend time in 7 different rooms. FAMILY, hear me on this. Ole’ boy will have SEVEN teachers in ONE day. Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, Writing and Spelling, PE, and an elective (music, or art, or computer lab, or library day). If they’re trying to use the time-out method– one minute for every year– one teacher for every year– I think they missed the boat.

He just turned seven this week.

He’s only been tying his shoes one summer.

And to be honest, he still sucks at it.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a bit much?

Have you met my child?

Maybe he’s not really ADD; maybe he’s just having a harder time molding to seven different personalities in a day and trying to please all of them.

Which brings me back to the air-quoted Homeroom Teacher. Really, his HT is his first period Reading teacher. He spends no more time with her in his day than he does with any other teacher and he doesn’t even end his day in her room. Seems like that’s a loose-fitting crown to claim.

All summer long I’ve been praying for Brennan’s HT. I’ve pleaded for someone who will care about him first, understand him second, and be able to guide us as parents down this second grade path last. I’ve prayed that his teacher was enjoying her summer and refilling her love tank with her own family. As teachers began reporting back to campuses in the last few weeks, I’ve prayed that our teacher was growing excited about the kids coming into her room and that she was genuinely looking forward to teaching a roomful of new faces and that she was feeling more and more prepared to do so. I even prayed over her today, knowing these are the last few days teachers will cram to get everything perfect and ready to hit the ground running on Monday morning when school starts.

I had a slight moment of panic when I realized all this time I kind of was praying for the wrong thing. Essentially, I was praying for a Ms. Shipp or Mrs. Lawson or Mrs. Benton experience for my son. I so want him to bond with a teacher he loves.

Can he do that with 7 teachers?

I remember my second grade teacher. When he’s my age, will Brennan be able to remember his?