Teachers can be beautiful too

My parents were teachers so I have a soft spot in my heart for the profession and those brave souls who dedicate their lives to teaching others. It is no easy feat facing a classroom full of people who are looking to you for instruction, inspiration (hopefully) and often direction. Teachers, professors, trainers, instructors have the grueling (my word) task of enlightening minds and shaping lives.

Andy Rooney said about teachers, “Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.” That is true of good teachers just as it is for bad teachers. Really bad teachers.

Thanks (or no thanks depending on how you look at it) to awful teachers with deplorable teacher-student etiquette, the teaching profession has taken a few black eyes in the media. It seems like every week we read or see news of teachers who have been inappropriate or acted with malice towards a student or even a group of students under their charge. Though the trend has grown since the media frenzy of Mary Kay Letorneau’s elicit and illegal affair with then 13-year-old Billy Fualau first hit the airwaves back in 1996, our obsession with teachers and their bad behavior is not a new phenomenon.

There are teachers fighting with kids, teachers recruiting kids to sell drugs and even a few who are enlisting kids to carry out murders. What’s next? Late night infomercials hawking “Teachers Gone Wild” videos?

But not all teachers are bad. I would even go as far as saying that the vast majority of teachers are good, decent, respectable people who want to change the world by first changing people. At least that’s who my parents were among many other wonderful things. If my parents had a teaching motto I would say it is, “Don’t tell me show me,” because that is what they often did. Their lessons were most effective when they showed kids rather than relying solely on discourse. And in my own experience, students responded much better to teachers who had genuine concern for their education and to a greater extent their welfare, a thing that this young student tried to teach his own teacher.

I had many wonderful and engaging teachers as a young man. I remember them fondly for the things that they impressed on my mind. I remember them with respect for the way that they pushed me to work harder, think deeper. I was not always a great student, but when I knew that a teacher cared I listened intently to every word they taught.

One teacher in particular, a stern, serious woman with a steely gaze once told me, “You’re one of the laziest students I have ever taught!” The immature adolescent in me immediately flushed with dislike until she followed up her first statement with, “But you have so much talent when you actually try to do your work. If you just did that all the time you will find that you are really a lot better than you give yourself credit.”

From that day forward I wanted to do two things: 1) Show her that she was wrong about me being lazy and 2) make her proud. I don’t know if she was ever proud of me but I do know that by proving to her that I was not a lazy student, I actually proved her right by being an actively engaged student. That year, I aced her class and she cultivated in me a love for words and writing, skills that I carry with me to this day.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for teachers and the work that they do. I have never nor would I ever want to be a teacher because it is a hard job and I prefer the tap-tap-tapping of a keyboard and the low hum of my laptop under the dim lights of my desk at work to the chaos and unruliness of a classroom. I deplore the actions of the few teachers who abuse their power but recognize the beautiful work of those beautiful people who on a daily basis are subjected to mockery, ingratitude and insubordination. But good teachers, like Rita Pierson in the video below, are beautiful people who do a difficult but a beautiful work – teaching people to be beautiful inside and out.

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