THE BLOG

When Teachers Teach to Reach

08/28/2013 04:27 EDT | Updated 10/28/2013 05:12 EDT

There are two times a year when P.E.I. teachers feel like celebrities. Once during the Annual Provincial Teacher's Convention when rubbing shoulders with various Muckety-Mucks from across the continent at the famed Delta Prince Edward hotel. Two glorious days to sit (and yes, learn) while relaxing on thinly cushioned chairs, sipping tepid coffee, and all paid compliments of the Boss (a.k.a. the current prevailing government of the day). And then again, when shopping at Staples during their annual back to school sale. Shopping excursion free of charge whilst the items procured are paid compliments of my 'end-of-summer' diminishing bank account.

I love shopping at Staples. The employees there make you feel so incredibly special. When you announce that you are a teacher, the manager is immediately summoned. He looks at you with eyes of approval as if to say, "You must really have nerves made from steel. I applaud you and worship the very ground you walk on. Now please buy everything on sale in our flyer."

Then, the teacher goodies are trotted out. This year I received an apple paper weight filled with Post-It notes, which I could otherwise not afford as they cost as much as a night out at the movies. Popcorn included. Then, since I spent well-over the $50 minimum, I also received a $10 gift certificate to a store that I rarely shop at (because it is located two hours away), which must be used within two weeks. But no matter. I will treasure it as an iconic symbol of my teaching status.

And lastly and most importantly, I got the coveted 15 per cent reduction in total cost. I might add, cost before taxes. Kicker. And all because I flashed the cashier my health coverage card that had written across the top, PEITF cardholder. Which incidentally happened to be Husband's, so who's to say I am not the stay-at-home mother I was a few years ago? Whatevs. The good people at Staples are trusting.

I say all this to say THIS: Don't hate me because I am a teacher.

Feeling like a celebrity is probably the last emotion most teachers experience on a day-to-day basis, as the general sentiment to be observed ranges between two polar opposite camps, one of which being complete and utter exhaustion and the other, crazed stress.

Teaching anyone is not for the faint of heart. Teaching children recommended only for those who can see beyond the job to the heart of the students whom they teach. Teaching is less a job than it is a calling. And it is akin to that kind of calling one is drawn by when becoming a parent or grandparent, an aunt or uncle. You don't do it because you have to: you do it because you want to.

You spend time with kids because you genuinely think they are amazing.

People are pretty incredible, but kids are amazing.

Kids say funny things all the time. They tell you hilarious things about their families that no innocent ear should ever hear. I know whose parents sleep in their birthday suits and whose do not.

Kids are honest -- they tell it like it is. I know exactly what they think of me because they tell me. And they are not afraid to ask questions about peculiarities in my appearance, issues in my home life or ask me why someone who is different than them is the way they are.

And they are not afraid to ask anyone why in the name of time they are wearing those shoes.

Kids are busy. I know I have added more grey hairs to my head and extra wrinkles to my forehead, but inadvertently I have also added more years to my life simply because I have chosen to spend my time with kids. Kids keep you young. They make you move faster, bend lower and reach higher. They are an entertaining alternative to diets and exercise regimes. Although they do cost more in the long run.

Kids are people too. They come to school with their own story. It helps to listen to that story so as to appreciate that kids have many layers. They are more complicated than you might think. Kids are capable of understanding things that adults sometimes have lost the ability to attend to. Things like noticing and wondering and imagining. And playing. Kids are excellent at that too. Adults, not so much.

Kids are amazing. And it is a privilege for this 'celebrity' teacher to work with the brightest, funniest minds this side of Holly Wood, each and every day of the school year.

The thing is, a teacher isn't special because they teach kids -- they are special because they reach kids. That reach is essentially what teachers do when they move beyond teaching curriculum to connecting with kids and making a difference. Good teachers do this in a variety of ways. Some do it through passion in their subject area. Others through their interest in listening. Still others through coaching or volunteering. There are as many ways to reach as there are children. The commonality -- the thread that weaves throughout the best is interest: when teachers are interested, their reach is greater. You can teach without passion, but reaching without passion is next to impossible.

The essential fact of the matter is that without kids, teachers would be nothing. Kids are the magic that happens inside a classroom. And kids bring out that quality in teachers that make us feel like the celebrities Staple's would have us believe we are: those with that elusive quality of being which inspires others through making a difference in someone else life.

My daughter had a teacher this past year that she believed to be one step lower than an angel. (No, it was not the daughter that had me as a Kindergarten teacher, but thanks for even entertaining the idea.) I sometimes catch this particular daughter inside even on sunny, summer afternoons, pretending to be that special teacher -- instructing invisible students in the window seat of our second floor. And I have found many notes of appreciation tucked away that somehow failed to make it to said teacher's hands -- notes that speak in glowing terms of her teacher's wonderful, warm personality and expansive heart. If every teacher connected to a child in such a way, imagine the difference that would be made in the life of a child. In the lives of children that will one day grow up to be adults with potential to impact the world.

And imagine the ripple effect that would flow from even one child for years to come. Let alone the many. And all because a passionate teacher decided not just to teach, but more importantly, decided to use teaching as an opportunity to reach.

That's the influence of an effective teacher who reaches out.