Friday, May 7, 2010

Teachers, this one's for you

Seriously, I don't know how they do it. All day long. 180 days a year.

Today marks the conclusion of Teacher Appreciation Week, and I'd like to use this opportunity to appreciate teachers on a personal level.

Like I said, I'm not sure how they do it, but those in the education profession emit some kind of "Teacher Doppler," waves of energy that command respect and the use of common sense and courtesy. They make us think that our epiphany about long division is the result of some divine intervention, when in fact, the instructor's patient tutoring is the source of our learning breakthroughs.

If teachers actually wore hats, they'd have to keep a stack of them in their closet (that place a lot of us thought they lived after we all went home). Throughout the school day, he or she would walk over to the closet, take off the parent hat, and don the counselor hat. But wait! Time for a hasty change to the enforcer hat, since that kid Dennis just gave Wayne a wedgie. And now that Dennis has gone to the office, it's time for the cap of compassion.

I'll bet each of us possesses a memory of a defining moment with a teacher, an incident which left an indelible mark on our lives and the type of people we grew to become. One day in second grade, my reading group sat in a circle in the back of the classroom. We were involved in a really interesting conversation about a book, but I'd had to relieve myself for quite some time. I strained to wait until our discussion was concluded, since school would be adjourning in about ten minutes. Unfortunately, my bladder reached critical mass all-too-quickly and I had an accident while sitting in my chair. I asked if I could use the restroom, and my teacher said yes, but the damage was done.

I stood in the lavatory, completely humiliated. I lingered in there until the bell rang, ending school for the day, and then returned to my classroom. My teacher's eyes betrayed a look of empathy and kindness as she said, "Come one. I'll take you home. It's okay...everyone has accidents." She drove me to my house, had a quick, discreet conversation with my mom and drove off. She must have also spoken to the class that day, because I heard nary a word about my mishap from any of my classmates.

I hope she doesn't mind, but I'm going name my second grade teacher. Barbara Mielke, I'll never forget how much you helped me on what remains the most embarrassing day of my life.

So here's to you, teachers in my life: My mom, Peggy, my dad, Lionel, my sister, Ann, my wife, Terri, and friends Michelle and Larry and Karen and Kathy and Chris and Elizabeth and Bryan.

And can I borrow a pencil?

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