I am getting ready to finish my preparatory period at school when I decide to quickly check my e-mail account for any new correspondence. There are a couple of junk mail items, but the one with my son's name as the heading catches my eye. It is an email from his teacher.
I open the email and almost immediately, a wave of emotion sweeps over me. Without getting into particulars, it is apparent that my son's intermediate teacher cares a great deal about him -- and she has taken the time to express such to me personally, by way of a short note. Within the letter, she indicates the depth to which she understands my son's unique character and personality. She shows me in her choice of words that my son is to her, not just another body that sits in front of her each day. A face or a name. To her, he's a person. And she cares about him as an individual.
She really cares.
I am both touched and humbled by her decision to take an interest in my son. Because quite honestly, according to an educator's job terms, care-giving is not the expected duty or function of a teacher. Teachers are associated more with the academic aspect of their job description: the facet of their employment terms that requires they implement curriculum and assess for learning with regards to their students -- all so as to affect academic growth. This is, of course, a very worthy endeavor.
Yet, it all seems very cut and dried: teachers show up each day, plan lessons, teach lessons, assess for learning, plan more lessons and then go home. While this is a very definite reality and necessary aspect of a teacher's job, it isn't everything. Another aspect that encompasses even more of a teacher's real job description than merely this (i.e. a part of the job that many teachers do without urging, incentive or prompting) is caregiving.
Teachers are not just teachers. Teachers are so much more.
But until we as people are impacted personally by this caregiving aspect role that describes a true educator, we really don't understand how important it is.
What I mean by this is...
Until your child has been bullied, you don't realize what it means to have a teacher calling you to see what they can personally do to rectify the situation.
Until your child has been without a lunch, you don't realize how much it means to have a teacher offer half of hers to your child.
Until your child has been excluded, you don't realize how much it means to have a teacher notice your child and seek them out.
Until your child has been owing money for an event, you don't realize what it means to have a teacher notice and make up the difference in the amount.
Until your child has lost a loved one, you don't realize how much it means to have a teacher take the time to make a homemade card for your son or daughter.
Until your child has been scared, anxious, worried, fearful, hurt, overwhelmed or endangered, you don't realize what it means to have a teacher in their corner- rooting for them, whatever it takes.
Because until it hits you personally, it is really hard sometimes to remember what a monumental role care-giving plays in the day-to-day life of a school.
Caregiving is the heart of teaching.
When governments cut teaching positions, what they are really doing is hurting our children. Because we are impacting our classroom teachers' ability to not only deliver curriculum effectively and efficiently, we are affecting their ability to be caregivers for our children. Certainly in Prince Edward Island, the student-teacher ratio that has been mathematically formulated to provide the best opportunity for our children is flawed.
This, because it doesn't take into account the actual reality of our classroom composition. It doesn't take into account the hundreds of little decisions and factors that inhibit teachers from reaching all their students. And it often impacts and perhaps even hinders teachers in effectively doing their job. This student-teacher ratio is based on theoretical possibility, not reality.
But even more than this, when we cut teaching positions, we are hurting everyone. When children come to school with hungry bellies, broken hearts, fears and anxieties, worries and concerns, teachers are there to pick up where Mom or Dad left off. We are the next in line. We are caregivers. When teacher positions are eliminated, our children's trusted advocates are disposed of. And children are left, becoming another face in the crowd inside a bigger classroom with more children with exceptional circumstances and needs: just like them. This is not to say that teachers cannot meet these extreme and complicated demands on their profession. But it is to say that I wonder how much longer the children can handle them.
There are few people in a child's life who can truly meet their needs -- both academic and personal. One source for this type of assistance are parents, guardians and family members. Another is our teachers.
Parents need to care about teacher cuts in provinces across Canada because it impacts the children. Maybe not today. Maybe not even tomorrow. But there will come a time when even one teacher might be the exactly right person to impact a child for the better. And when that time comes, it will make all the difference that the teacher involved was given the rare and beautiful opportunity to be there, influencing the life of a child.
And all because they were given the gift of being a teacher.
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