We spent the first two years of married life as US Peace Corps volunteers. I’m sure we changed lives when we served as PC volunteers, though I’m certain ours were changed more than anyone else’s. I then spent 26 years as an air traffic controller. I’m sure I saved lives when I performed air traffic control duties.
But… I come from a family of teachers.
My grandma, my great-aunt, lots of aunts and uncles, my parents, my mother-in-law, my wife, my daughter, most of my cousins, a swathe of second cousins, a large percentage of my social media friends, even a retired air traffic controller or two; all teachers. And not one of them who doesn’t get that look of love and fondness in their eye when the talk about teaching. Oh, they’ll tell you horror stories about bad kids or bad situations or a fight or the bloody noses and knees… but they can’t hide how much they love what they do.
This fall, I applied for and accepted a job as a teacher. I’ve been a substitute teacher since I retired 5 years ago from the air traffic job. (That ‘goodbye’ post is here). I’ve always known that teachers save lives, transform lives, make lives better – mostly in the students they face and teach and love, but in each other, too.
To this date, though, I’d never had to show up for the pre-student preparation days that real teachers attend. The training. The rules. Especially this fall, with so many extra health protocols in place and with students who haven’t seen a classroom since mid-March. What I hadn’t seen (behind the curtain) was the heart of those teachers who have set the morning alarm, put on clothes (goodbye gym shorts), gathered materials and ideas and thoughts and hopes and prayers to present as learning material for the coming students. In listening to those real teachers talk, I realized how many lives they saved or affected or improved or soothed. Teaching is the biggest life-saving operation around.
The district issued me a laptop computer. They plan to pay me. They gave me access to the building. Most of all, though, they trust me to care for students just like they do. It’s a big job and I’m pretty sure I’ll mess it up once or more. I’m humbled by their trust in me. I want to do well. I want to repay the bet that the administration took on me. Not for the glory or the money.
For the kids. The people (they’re more than just students, after all) who will be facing a scary world who need to hear that we are gonna be ok. I’m hoping we will be – we’ve got to be, right? – and that they will listen.