The best teachers are those who show you where to look but dont tell you what to see.
--Alexandra K. Trenfor
I am who I am this day because of the teachers God blessed me with in this life.
Teachers: who opened my mind and heart to new knowledge. Teachers: who brought out of me talents that I did not even realize I possessed. Teachers: who saw something in me I could not see myself. Teachers: who with patient love, reminded me that I was so much more than I might I think I was, at any given moment.
I often get this way in late August, wistful and a bit nostalgic, as I remember all those first days of school, from childhood into young adulthood; as I recall the many teachers who taught me. Even though its been more than 30 years since I sat in a school classroom or studied for a degree, when early September hits, I long for the heady mix of anticipation and anxiety that always marks the return to education.
I can still smell those pink erasers from elementary school. Can still feel the newness of an unmarked notebook, all those blank pages just waiting to be filled up. Can still remember the excitement I felt when, on the very first day of class, my new teacher walked in the door. What would I learn from them? How would the study of this new subject change me? Just what would this new teacher be like?
And this September!?
Man, do I feel for all the teachers in the COVID world we now live in. For them, the beginning of a new semester or term in the fall of 2020 is filled with so many unknowns and so much at stake and so much worry and so many questions. Can I teach again in a physical classroom and be safe and healthy? Will the young people in my care thrive in virtual learning or will they stumble? Will parents be supportive and encouraging or critical and discouraging? Will the administration have my back or will I be out there, all alone? Am I appreciated?
Heres an idea: lets actually thank the teachers in our lives this day, the brave and dedicated women and men who teach our sons and daughters, who taught us; the ones whom we trust with our nations most precious resource: children and youth. Right now, they may have about the toughest job in this world.
So, thank you Miss Carol, my kindergarten teacher. Even though on graduation day I still could not tell time by the half-hour or tie my shoes by myself, your care and patience made my very first days in the classroom fun.
Thank you Miss Richards, my high school French teacher. How did you put up with me!? Je ne sais pas (I do not know) was the only phrase I seemed to learn in your class, along with ferme la fenetre (close the window) and la pomme de terre (potato). I goofed around as a cover for how much the French language perplexed me and yet you never raised your voice, and even helped me squeak by with a C.
Thank you Professor Beck: I didnt know how much I needed to be an Old Testament major in graduate school until you opened the pages of that ancient text and made it come alive for me, with how much you loved and honored the sacred word. You are still with me in every sermon I preach.
Which teacher do you need to thank this day? Who was the teacher that inspired you? Loved you and believed in you, like no one else? Who is the teacher that helped your child realize their potential? Who was the font of knowledge, the educator, that made you want to learn, sparked in you a passion for a subject or an idea or a career?
Teachers and good teaching matters. Teachers, the best ones, shape souls and minds and hearts. In my faith tradition the one title, the most honored title, reserved for Jesus was rhabbouni, which in the ancient Aramaic tongue, simply means teacher.
So, to my teacher friends this new school year: to Jill the kindergarten teacher, and Jen the preschool teacher, and Kelley the preschool director, and Alison the high school librarian, and Adam, who teaches the blind and Maria, who works with autistic children: I am praying for you and rooting for you and thanking God for you, and for all that you do. For all that teachers do, every single day.
Thank you. Thank you! And Miss Richards? Merci beaucoup!!
The Rev. John F. Hudson is senior pastor of the Pilgrim Church, United Church of Christ, in Sherborn (pilgrimsherborn.org). If you have a word or idea youd like defined in a future column or have comments, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of The Press (Dover-Sherborn@wickedlocal.com).
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