Most parents send their children off to school when they are five or six, many earlier when pre-school is an option. We sent our youngest son to his first experience of school when he was eleven years, three-hundred and fifty-five days old. My wife has retired after 24 years of home-schooling.
Needless to say, it has been an adjustment for him, as well as for us. Not only has he (courageously, I might add) faced a barrage of new challenges, many never before imagined, but so have we. We are public school rookies trying to navigate a complex system to help our son’s transition to this new world be as smooth as possible.
In this process we have had several opportunities to intersect with his teachers and other professionals at his middle school. I know there are many complex issues related to education in general and public education in particular. But I also know that while the political, philosophical, and theological winds blow and the multiple degreed people debate how and why and where education best happens, there are teachers in classrooms who care about the children and young people they teach. I’ve known that for a long time, but this experience has put names and faces to that knowledge.
I’ve seen the bumper stickers with the political message “What if schools had all the money they needed and the Air Force had to have a bake sale to buy a bomber?” and ignored them. But I was surprised in our first meeting with our son’s teachers that nearly all of them in listing needs for their classrooms requested Kleenex. I realized then that if my son were to show up in class with a runny nose, these teachers would not use (non-existent) district issued tissues, but those they could beg or, failing that, buy. I understand that many teachers willingly spend hundreds of dollars each year from their own pockets to so stock their classrooms.
In the second week, my wife and I were able to have a meeting with all our son’s teachers to address some common concerns. We thanked them for all they were doing. At the end, we gave them each a cinnamon roll, and then picked up a laundry basket of Kleenex boxes and dumped them onto the conference table. In the midst of the ensuing ‘feeding frenzy’ (I don’t know what other words to use) there were expressions like ‘best parents ever’ spoken around the table.
We are hardly that. But it says something both about the needs of teachers, and their dedication, when one can make their day by giving them boxes of Kleenex. I cannot think of words with which to express my wonder at and appreciation for the good people that God has raised up around my son to guide his success.
My hat is off to all who teach. Who teach not history or English or science, but teach children.