Welcome to Awakenings

Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Tribute to Teachers

Teacher Appreciation Week

Monday, May 7, 2012 through Friday, May 11, 2012

"When you see a teacher today, or any day for that matter, thank them for everything they do."
                                                   ~Christy Carpenter, Mosley High School, Panama City, FL

Do you have a current or recall a former teacher that you will never forget? Is that remembrance comforting, filled with encouragement, or possibly totally humorous? Perhaps, even one that reflects a teacher who may not necessarily be classified a favorite but as you look back, realize what a great impact that person has, or had, on your life? Could there be more than just a single teacher who in one way or another left an everlasting impression? Have you taken the time to let them know how much they are truly appreciated?

As you ponder such questions, it must be taken into account that learning experiences transpire over a decade plus, across many disciplines, and under the helm of numerous educators and administrators. Like the molding of clay into a find piece of pottery, many persons in the education field has, or has had, his/her 'hand' in shaping who you are today. From kindergarten to elementary to middle to high school on to the workplace or college or university (which by the way could be more than one for the purpose of obtaining more than one degree), each had a unique part and the list could go on and on. . .

Being an educator has allowed me to reflect two-fold: On those who impacted my life and those whose lives I have impacted. And, of course, if you read my profile, you have learned my dad was also an educator and in addition, the school principal for my first seven years of school. However, my purpose for this posting is not about my experiences but something so graciously forwarded to me today that could not be set aside without sharing - sharing for all who read it to stop in reflection of our teachers with appreciation and gratitude.

 "I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teachers for living well."
                                                                          ~Alexander the Great
The Awakening for Today:

Christy Carpenter, Mosley High School, Panama City, FL

Take time to read Christy's Letter sent out to all the Mosely teachers. Then, pay it forward to as many as possible in appreciation for ALL that teachers do! As her mom put it, "After all the recent news reports of teachers who belittle students, mistreat them, and actally commit crimes with them, this seems like a breath of fresh air!"

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought I would attempt to capture my gratitude for our teachers in words and share my thoughts with those willing to take the time to read this and think about everything teachers do for our community.
I am who I am because of teachers. That’s not just a gross exaggeration or a trite phrase for me. My first teacher was my mother, who retired a few years ago from Bay District after 30 years teaching middle school students. My mother taught me to read and write, along with a myriad of other skills, while also caring for and teaching English to the other 150 or so children in her 6thgrade classes at A.D. Harris. Over the years, I saw how she balanced family and still took care of her students at school. I always admired her ability to love and care for so many children at one time. Maybe that’s why it was natural for me to enter the education profession myself. I can remember playing school and pretending to have my own classroom when I accompanied her to school on planning days. My friends, who were other teachers’ kids, would reluctantly indulge my desire that they serve as my attentive “students”if I promised to play outside after “class” was over. Many years later, I had my own real class and real students, where I learned about giving heart and soul so that I could reap the rewards that come along with a teacher’s dedication. I’ve also had the opportunity to help change the lives of some of my students who struggled with academics and personal issues. It was a long way from demanding that my pretend students beat erasers and use proper grammar in “class” when I was ten, -- this time, the challenges and rewards were real, and I loved every minute of my time in the classroom.
I have fond memories of fingerpainting and dressing like a Pilgrim at Thanksgiving in my kindergarten class with Mrs. Jones. I never once remember feeling afraid or insecure in her class. Her rousing rendition of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” is a treasure I’ve held dear to my heart for the vast majority of my life. I hope I passed on the love of this story to my own children. I recently went to dinner a few months ago at Golden Corral, and as I hastily entered the lobby area (late as usual), I heard a voice that was an instant balm on my frazzled nerves. There stood Mrs. Jones! The lilt in her voice took me back to a day when I felt safe and secure in her Kindergarten classroom. I don’t know that I could have expressed the magnitude of my love and appreciation for her as a six year old. Did I tell her that I would miss her on my last day of Kindergarten? Did she understand how much I would appreciate her many years down the road? Thirty-five years later, I hope that she understands the impact she had on my life. I hope she knows how much I value the lessons I learned in Kindergarten that supplied a solid foundation for my success. Mostly, I hope she knows how much I appreciate feeling safe and encouraged to explore, think, and inquire under her tutelage.
Teachers work hard. I’ve witnessed and been the beneficiary of the product of teachers’ hard work, as a student, a fellow teacher, a parent and an administrator. Are there bad apples (pardon the pun!) in the bunch? Of course there are, as there are in any aspect of society and in any profession. I assure you, however, that good teachers want only good teachers in classrooms, just as parents, students and community members do. The vast majority of teachers are hard-working, and willing to sacrifice family time, money and effort to support our students and families, both in academics and in society. My son’s kindergarten teacher eagerly took him in when he transferred to a new school this past January. She made him feel at home, loved and safe, just like I did when I was in Kindergarten. She encourages his interests and invites him to explore, enriches his strengths and provides support to improve his weaknesses. He told me yesterday that he loves her. Love isn’t a word that is bandied about in our household—you have to earn it. I asked him why he loves her, and he told me “because she loves all of us in her class.” From a parent’s point of view, you can’t ask for a better teacher. If Kelly Lewis has earned my son’s love, she’s a star in my book. Another example is the math teacher who donates his personal time in the afternoons to tutor my daughter through Algebra II—not for money but because he knows how difficult math is for her and wants to see her succeed. He’s not even her teacher of record, but felt compelled to help when he saw her struggling. I witness his empathy and concern for all students, not just my own daughter, on a daily basis as an administrator at his school. Ironically enough, this is the same math teacher that supported me through Geometry and Business math when I was in high school twenty-five years ago. Paul Durden’s level of compassion and dedication hasn’t changed since I was in school, even though society’s view of teachers has.
Teachers often take a beating from the public these days. Recent news about teachers making bad choices can make us forget about the vast majority of the wonderful teachers in our system. Sometimes we forget that teaching is different than most other professions in that teachers hold a crucial responsibility. Teachers not only take responsibility for their students’ academic well-being, but for their self-esteem, emotional and physical security as well. Imagine the weight of knowing that you hold this responsibility for 18, 22, or even 120 students. Even though this thought would be daunting to many people, teachers readily and eagerly accept this challenge.
I thank my teachers who have supported me and made me who I am. My teachers and the lessons they taught me are the framework of my life; from Mrs. Hawks and Mrs. Pipkin who encouraged me and my fellow students to think beyond the expected, to Mrs. Leake who let me sing in the choir even though I can’t carry a note in a bucket, to Coach Jennings who somehow got me through Algebra, to Mrs. Deluzain who gave me the freedom to explore topics that moved me, and encouraged me to“write what you know.” (By the way, Mrs. D, my novel is coming soon!) There are hundreds of others that I could thank if I had the space and time. I would be willing to bet that each of you reading this can remember a positive experience with a teacher, whether it’s something a teacher said that encouraged you, or a teacher who made you feel loved and welcome in her classroom. I am honored to supervise some of the most caring, loving and committed teachers in the country. Every day that I go to work, I witness a teacher giving of himself or herself. I’ve witnessed teachers paying for students to attend their senior trip when the students otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford it, contribute to scholarship funds, buy shoes for needy students, talk students through personal problems and conflicts, stop a bully from ruining another student’s day, encourage a student to stay in school when they don’t see any other option than dropping out, and provide lunches, school supplies, and most importantly LOVE to students on a daily basis. Being a teacher means you’re a social worker, doctor, psychiatrist, coach, a host of other roles to multiple students. I thank God that there are loving and trustworthy people who are willing to take the burden, responsibility and glorious opportunity to teach. “THANK YOU” doesn’t convey the magnitude of my gratitude for everything teachers do, but it’s a start. When you see a teacher today, or any day for that matter, thank them for everything they do.
Teachers play a key role in every individual’s development and evolution. Showing appreciation to them is therefore the least one can do as an act of gratitude. Remember to express your appreciation this week, next week and every week to come!
"The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate "apparently ordinary" people into unusual effort. The tough problem is not in identifying winners: it is in making winners out of ordinary people."
                                                                                                 ~K. Patricia Cross


  1. @ Sharla - Excellent article. Students play a vital role in not only an educated society but also a free society.

  2. Thank you, Daron. I am glad you enjoyed the posting and hope you will return often.