In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-6, 2016) I wanted to share a story that my mother-in-law, a retired elementary school teacher, recently told me. A little backstory first: in addition to being a loving wife, mother, and nana, she is also a tough-as-nails former New Yorker who taught third and fourth grade for 30 years in the Orange County public school system. She ran her classroom with gentle authority and had the unique talent of inspiring both adoration and respect in her students. This lady was voted Teacher of the Year shortly before she retired (which is testament to the fact that even with the relative job security that seniority brings, she still worked her butt off teaching kids year after year until her very last day of school). Not only that, but just about every time I’m out in public with her – whether it’s the grocery store or a restaurant or the car mechanic – a former student or parent will come up to her to get a hug and say hello, even now several years post-retirement. In fact, she still has a closet full of ceramic mugs and other gifts from past Teacher Appreciation Weeks, has taught multiple generations within families, and continues to receive Christmas cards from some of her most devoted graduates! This woman is accomplished and beloved to say the least, ok?
One of the most challenging days in the school year for any teacher has got to be taking the class on a field trip. You’re out of your physical element, responsible for the safety of dozens of excited children, and worried about staying on schedule and on task. It’s a logistical nightmare, akin to herding a gaggle of kittens. That’s why parent volunteers are often recruited to help out on these occasions. So with all that in mind, here’s her story:
Some years ago, my mother-in-law was leading a field trip to Trabuco Canyon with about 30 fourth graders, and one of the volunteers was the father of a student. Though she knew the mother well, this was the first time she’d met the dad and it was rare at the time for a father to attend a field trip, so she made a point to talk to him on the bus ride home. They chit-chatted for a bit and then she told him that it was nice of him to come and that she appreciated it. The father, appearing exhausted and frazzled, said to her as he looked around at the boisterous students sitting behind them: “I’m happy to be here to help, but I don’t know how you do this every day with these kids. This is harder than my job.” Oh really? She replied. And what do you do for a living? His response: “I’m a hostage negotiator for the OC police.”
There you have it folks, being a teacher is more challenging than one of the most difficult jobs within one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. So don’t forget to say thank you to your children’s teachers and be extra kind to them this week!