I am not one generally to acknowledge what I consider to be faux holidays; after all if I did everyday would be a holiday. However this week is Teacher Appreciation Week and today is National Teachers Day. Considering the current climate in the US when it comes to public education and teachers, it seems fitting to think about all the great teachers I have had. Hell, looking at my own kids, I have seen and continue to see the difference a great teacher can have. My own son entered high school pretty damn apathetic towards school, after all he had spent so many years being the only brown kid in class and honestly it had weighed him down. Yet when he decided to move to the Midwest with his Pops for his junior and senior years of high school, he met teachers who gave a damn. Teachers who took him out of his shell, and inspired him to give his best, teachers that gave him permission to question and question he does now as a philosophy major in his second year of college.
I look at my own years of schooling, in the early years it was Mrs. Miller in second grade, my first Black teacher that allowed me to see that teachers could indeed be people who looked like me. It was a trio of teachers, Mr. Shanahan, Ms. Steinberg and Ms. Gross in grades 4-7 who showed me a world outside of a classroom and introduced me to the arts. A world where the arts were as valuable as reading and writing and maybe even more which is why my heart breaks when I see how little the arts are valued in this current climate.
I had some bad years, and after deciding to drop out of high school yet returning to school at 25 to get my bachelor’s degree, the truth was I had no confidence in myself. Yet it was Cynthia Milsap, a professor at my alma mater who in my 1st year in college when I publicly announced I doubt I would finish school, since I didn’t seem good at it, told me yes you will. Cynthia over the years has seen me through my undergraduate and graduate years, laughing along the way and reminding me of my words.
Good teachers make a difference; they can and do indeed inspire and help change the world. Having tried my hand at teaching a few times now, I can say that it’s not for everyone which is why good teachers are all the more special and deserve appreciation instead of the suspicion and scorn they now face.
So for National Teachers Day, I leave you with this piece by Taylor Mali.