A Letter to the Teacher

Originally published Wednesday, 23 October 2013.

Dear Teacher,

At the risk of dating myself, I have made a shocking discovery that I thought I would share with you. When I was a child in school, we didn't have Facebook, or the internet, or even computers. As I considered the list of things that didn't exist when I was a child, I was quite shocked at the length of it. There was no such thing as smartphones, GPS, flat irons, or texting.

Or "intruder drills".

Just as life is different for students now, I realize that your role as a teacher has dramatically changed over the past thirty-ish years.

You should know that we, the parents of your students, don't take the responsibility you face lightly.

After the last intruder drill at my son's school, the children were talking about all of the "what if's" that could happen in their music class. Their music teacher, a gentle, caring, soft-spoken man listened to each concern and took time to logically address each one. My son, who normally has nightmares after the intruder drill day, raised his hand and asked his music teacher what would happen if someone had a chainsaw and forced their way into the class.

"I would die protecting you".

This teacher's soft but strong answer made tears roll down my cheeks. Why? Because I have no doubt that this gentle, humble soul -- who would choose Mozart over violence any day -- would certainly keep that promise. I know that this teacher, who wants to bring joy to children and to teach them the joy of music, must go to work each day knowing that he may have to give his life for someone else's child.

It breaks my heart to know that children have to worry about an intruder breaking into their classroom. It crushes me to know that you teachers, who just want to instill a love of learning into our children, are sent every day into a war zone.

We are not only asking you to teach our children now. We are asking you to protect them -- and even to potentially give your own life to save the life of our children.

My children.

We pay you less than you deserve, ask you to work more hours than you expect, and thank you less than we thank the lady at the McDonald's drive thru when she hands us hot coffee. As if that wasn't enough, we expect you to fearlessly stand in front of an armed gunman to save our children.

Teachers, we owe you an apology.

As I think back over my life, some of the people who had the greatest impact on my life were teachers. Those, like my high school math teacher, who cheered me on and challenged me to push myself. Now, as a small-town graduate of a class of only 80 people, I work -- and compete daily -- with others from the most prestigious schools in the country. Why? Because Mr. Brown believed in me.

I think of my high school English teacher who looked me in the eye and said I had a "gift" in writing. She believed in me long before I believed in myself. Now, so many years later, I find my voice to once again pour my heart out through writing. Why? Because Ms. Greene believed in me.

So for you, dear teachers, I stand and applaud you today.

I vow to you that I will support you in every way I can this year and every year to follow. I will, first and foremost, pray for you daily -- for strength, safety, wisdom, and a healthy dose of patience. I will support you in the decisions you make. I will encourage my children to obey your rules, respect you, and to give their best. I don't take lightly the responsibility you face each day, sweet teacher, and I want you to know we are in this together.

You are making a difference.

When you feel like giving up, please don't.

When you wonder if all the work is even worth it, please know that it is always worth it!

When you want to scream and possibly duct tape the kids to their chairs.... well, call me. That might actually be a good idea, and I will help you.

Seriously, we -- the parents of your students -- thank you.

We treasure you. We support you. We trust you with our children's lives. We will join hands and challenge this generation of children together... and be your biggest supporter. Thank you for your love of learning and for inspiring so many to follow your footsteps.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Henry Adams

Please share this with a teacher you love and appreciate. Let them know they are making a difference and are appreciated!