Sa­lut­ing teach­ers

The Covington News - - Opinion - PAULA TRAVIS

Be­lieve it or not, I have writ­ten a col­umn for one year and this one marks the be­gin­ning of a sec­ond year. I have yet to un­der­stand why you find the trivia of my life in­ter­est­ing, but I am glad you en­joy it.

The first col­umn I wrote saluted teach­ers as school was about to be­gin and it is now a new school year.

I ap­plaud teach­ers who re­turn year af­ter year and like Sisy­phus con­stantly fight to roll that rock up the hill. Yes, teach­ers make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of their students. But, in gen­eral, the changes are so grad­ual that rarely do teach­ers get the sat­is­fac­tion of see­ing a job fin­ished. (I don’t like to iron, but when I do, I hang all the clothes on doors around the room so I can ad­mire my work. I think that act is a re­sult of my be­ing a teacher and never get­ting to gloat about see­ing my work com­pleted.)

Teach­ers work with­out the com­pany of their peers and rarely get ap­proval or praise from their co-work­ers. Teach­ers work long hours at home, hours for which they are not paid.

Teach­ers gen­er­ally see par­ents of their students when there is a prob­lem. They hear parental com­plaints, not praise or thanks. Teach­ers gen­er­ally see prin­ci­pals when there is a prob­lem, again hear­ing com­plaints, not praise or thanks.

Teach­ers of­ten pur­chase with their own monies ma­te­ri­als they need for their class­rooms and have had to en­dure fur­lough days and fewer re­sources.

Teach­ers are sup­posed to be cheer­lead­ers, dis­ci­plinar­i­ans, sec­ondary par­ents and nurses of­fer­ing not just the knowl­edge of the dis­ci­plines they teach but also mod­el­ing and teach­ing ac­cept­able be­hav­ior, at­ti­tudes, health prac­tices and char­ac­ter traits for our most pre­cious pos­ses­sions, our chil­dren.

For these dif­fi­cul­ties and heavy de­mands, re­turn­ing teach­ers de­serve our thanks and praise.

Be­gin­ning teach­ers have gone to col­lege for four years to learn the lat­est method­ol­ogy. (They don’t re­al­ize that ed­u­ca­tion is fad­dish, just like ev­ery­thing else. What was the cor­rect way to teach one year will be out in an­other year. The text book ap­proach that was lauded last year will be dis­carded for a newer con­cept this year. I be­lieve I could write sev­eral col­umns about the things we tried at New­ton High School, the worst be­ing the open con­cept build­ing.)

They arrive at their new schools ex­cited and filled with trep­i­da­tion. The bright new­ness of their cho­sen pro­fes­sion fu­els their ide­al­ism. They have not lost their naiveté. They have not be­come bogged down by the mind-numb­ing trivia of the pa­per­work re­quired of teach­ers.

I salute these new teach­ers too. Yes, this first year will be dif­fi­cult. Yes, you will find that teach­ing, students and class­rooms are not like the ideals you en­coun­tered in your col­lege class­rooms.

But there will be un­ex­pected re­wards as well as dis­ap­point­ments. Hang in there. Do not let the con­stant need to do four or five things at once get your heads spin­ning. Ev­ery­one has a dif­fi­cult time ad­just­ing to a new sit­u­a­tion, and this is no dif­fer­ent. Ev­ery year you teach it be­comes a lit­tle eas­ier.

In an­other col­umn I men­tioned the statis­tic that 50 per­cent of new teach­ers leave the pro­fes­sion in their first five years. I hope none of the new teach­ers this year will be a part of this statis­tic.

New­ton County schools pro­vide each new teacher with an ex­pe­ri­enced teacher who will act as a men­tor. These men­tors are trained to help you. Take ad­van­tage of them. No ques­tion is too triv­ial.

If you are an ex­pe­ri­enced teacher but not a men­tor, I ask you to watch out for the first year teach­ers and take the time to make their lives a lit­tle smoother. Of­ten new teach­ers are too in awe of you and afraid to ask what they think might be a triv­ial or fool­ish ques­tion. They are afraid to speak up or ask for help. Ev­ery lit­tle kind­ness will be ap­pre­ci­ated.

Ro­man gla­di­a­tors who en­tered the ring sup­pos­edly said, “We, who are about to die, salute you.”

Let’s para­phrase that. We, who are about to en­trust our chil­dren to you, salute you, the teach­ers of New­ton County.

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