I am a Parent. I am a Teacher. These things are so intertwined. I am thinking about my children 24/7/365. All of my children. I know I am not alone. I am aware that I think, talk, and advocate for my biological children all the time. You can’t know me without knowing that…it is what it is. When you meet me, you meet my kids too. Maybe never face to face, but they inform my every decision, my every choice.
When I am out there in the world living life, I’m also always thinking about my students, past, present, and future. What is amazing is the moments I am hanging with another teacher who is doing the exact same thing for their children. I see you. I hear you. I love you. Keep doing you! I see you in the supermarket. I see those extra bunches of bananas or apples you are going to take to school. I see those packs and packs of knit “one size fits all” gloves you toss into your cart. I hear you planning ahead – your schedule, your bulletin board, your budgets. I hear you talk about them all as if they are your own. I see those painful smiles – those “I wish I could do more” looks as you buy tissues, paper, pencils, socks, deodorant, books, balloons, granola bars, coats and shoes. I love you for it.
I am also realizing that all teachers have challenges and goals, no matter their school system’s support level. Recently I got a little snarky with my mom. She was chatting with me on the phone and casually mentioned she wondered if my daughter’s teacher needed new supplies. I was thrown off and she reminded me that the initial letter home to Kindergarten parents (that I was coerced to copy for her very involved grandparent) stated that each child needed to bring in the large list of classroom supplies at the beginning of the year and possible replenish mid-year. I found myself getting nasty with my mom and told her to send supplies directly to her teacher at the school. I took a breath and said I was sorry. I was irritable because I was feeling overwhelmed. I felt overwhelmed because I was not wanting to buy the supplies for my daughter’s classroom myself because what little surplus money we have for that kind of thing was going to go for my work classroom. Then I felt guilty because I was putting my school children before my own, or so I thought. It can be a tough situation. In the end, I let my mom spend money on her granddaughter’s room and I spent money on my students.
At my school, we don’t really ask or require parents to send in supplies. Many of the families don’t have the money and to create a list to send home can create tension, excuses, and shame. I don’t teach in one room. Every period is a new group of kids in a new room. It can be tough to create a home-like environment. I know that many of my colleagues spend a lot of our paychecks making sure every room we teach in has chalk, dry erase markers, tissues, pens, pencils, folders, binders, sharpeners, staplers, cleaning supplies, paper, and sometimes food. I bring in house plants. When I think about this, I want to get annoyed with my daughter’s teacher for being greedy. Then I remember it’s not her I am upset with – its the system. The societal lack of concern for education and environment in this country. I am happy that my daughter’s teacher wants create the best environment in which she can learn. I am fortunate that she feels she can ask for supplies and invest her personal money on other things. I have seen her classroom and there is NO WAY everything in there was covered by a school budget. Plus, this lady emails us CONSTANTLY. It’s great. She updates us with photos, lesson plan ideas and progress. She oozes love for my kiddo, she gives her time and effort always.
This is such a tender issue and a tender time for Educators. We are constantly evaluated, threatened, lied to, confused, redirected, competing, and spread too thin. But we keep giving. We give. All day. Every day. We give. We won’t stop. We can’t stop.
Yesterday, I was at a Professional Development – on a Saturday. I was surrounded by a ton of other teachers donating their “day off” to brainstorm more ways we can give. Never a day off for teachers. We give. I was seated across the table from another teacher. She was writing in her notes and I smiled. I saw stuffed into her notebook some cool learning sticker things. She saw me looking and said that she found them in the store on her way to the PD. She thought they would help one of her English Language Learner students. She showed them to me but the whole time I could see that dream like thought inside her head where she envisions her student, her child, learning and happy. She gives.
This is what it is all about I guess. Right now we are amidst a political earthquake and the fate of Public Education is trembling and crumbling in the hands of a person who knows nothing, cares very little and won’t give…to our children. Please, if you read this, find a teacher or a school and give. It’s not hard and it feels really good. Sponsor a student team or club. Share your time and knowledge with those kids. Go outside your comfort zone and neighborhood. Meet new people and make lasting connections. Invest in our future. Get involved. Be the community our children, all children need. Don’t think too much about it – give of yourself. Then find new ways, new minds, new opportunities.
Then give some more. You will be rewarded in ways you cannot believe or comprehend.