Once a teenage cashier in a hospital cafeteria asked if I was a CPS teacher (maybe my lunchbox and bag of papers gave me away). I confirmed I was visiting a student and she began to cry, came around the counter and to give me a hug, and shared accounts of times teachers were there for her. Our work matters in the most important way.
Teachers spend at least seven hours a day studying their kids–what motivates them, what pushes their buttons, what draws them in, what leads them to give up, how they respond to conflict, why they smile, and how they’re unique. We read their most personal writing, we read with them and hear how they relate to characters in the most personal ways, we are there to see them discover new things, we feel their love. Inevitably, we love them back and sometimes we love them first. In the words of one of the greatest educators, Dr. Maria Montessori, “what really makes a teacher is love for the human child; for it is love that transforms the social duty of the educator into the higher consciousness of a mission.”
That evening in the hospital, holding that teenage student I had never before met as she cried, waiting to hug my own beloved student as she healed, and hoping my family would forgive me for arriving home late again, I was reminded how dignified our mission as educators really is, even if it hurts when things don’t go right for our kids. Love is a pretty serious occupational hazard. Teaching is a pretty serious occupation.
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