Before I started teaching, I worked for a popular television newsmagazine. It was there that I heard a funny comment about my father’s funeral... a teacher’s funeral. A coworker said “It was like one of the Beatles died!” Student emotions ran high and, while my office mates joked about it later, they all agreed it was heartfelt and deserved. A host of students demanded additional bus service to attend his funeral. Traffic was blocked off around the church and the intersections leading up to it. The receiving line seemed to extend around the building. Such a response is typical for the death of a beloved teacher. It got me thinking: Who would be at my funeral? What would be my epitaph? How significant is my work?
During this National Teacher Appreciation Week, do not expect roses from Governor Scott Walker or chocolates from Chris Christie. This week think of a teacher who made serious changes in your life; think of a teacher that you can immortalize. You know the type I’m talking about — you wondered how their kidneys functioned because they never took a bathroom break because they were hanging on your every word. They gave you money for the bake sale or book fair when you knew that from the looks of their clothes and their lunches, they failed to spend lavishly on themselves or their families. They never took a sick day. They worked like they were working directly for God, and if you got in trouble, they certainly reminded you of it.
That teacher and his or her descendants will be grateful for your thoughtful words. I’ve been stopped on the street by a student that wanted to tell how my father, a teacher, helped him reveal his sexual orientation to his very traditional parents. I've been stopped by parents to learn how my father, a teacher, implemented policies that saved their child’s life. And I've been stopped by families who credit him with their child’s strong academic skills, high self-esteem, and first job post-college. Can’t get back to your hometown to talk one-on-one with that teacher you love or their family? You can . . .
1. Help change public perception of American teachers. Check out the National Education Association’s “Tweet Teacher Week Campaign” and use their #thankateacher hashtag. NEA sample tweets include: “If you can read, #thankateacher” and “if you followed your dreams, #thankateacher.”