In the craziness and chaos of a teacher's daily routine, it's easy to forget how important you are to your students. It hit home with me yesterday as I sat holding my sobbing, broken-hearted six-year-old.
My youngest daughter is a goofy, bright-eyed kindergartner who loves everything about school, especially her teacher. A veteran educator who has taught all levels of elementary school, she knows how to prepare her young charges. While fulfilling her educational role, she also clearly values each one of them for who they are. She's amazing.
After coming down with a fever Wednesday night, my daughter stayed home from school on Thursday and missed her Valentine's Day party on Friday. My wife went up to the school to pick up the cards and party favors, and was handed a note from the principal: Friday was going to be my daughter's beloved teacher's last day. She was moving out of state.
My wife called me at home, and I had to be the one to break the news. I held my daughter in my lap while she cried, then my wife picked her up to go tell her teacher good-bye for the last time. I realized in that moment how central the role of a teacher is in the life of a child, even the ones who come from what most would consider a stable, well-adjusted home.
This got me thinking about the students I've worked with over the past decade. For many of them, school is the only constant in their lives: single parents work long hours, so the kids are shuffled between caretakers throughout the week. Sometimes they cycle between apartments on the weekends. Some of them even live in long-term hotels because they can't find more permanent housing. Coming to school is, for them, the most predictable thing they know.
And it's not limited to the primary grades. Middle-schoolers look to teachers as they search for identity in the frightening chasm between elementary and high school. Teenagers crave role models, and teachers often fill the void their social ecosystem may otherwise leave empty. Even though they may not say it, they have the same longing for everyday certainty as a student who has just entered their first year of formal schooling.
So no matter who the child is, no matter how secure their living situation may be, and no matter how they act when they get to you, you are stability for them. It's easy to forget, but a sobbing six-year-old reminded me that, in the eyes of a child, a teacher's value is impossible to measure.