Saturday, May 19, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1614 - I appreciate teachers!

  I appreciate teachers. I struggled with teachers, but I appreciate teachers. I even fought with teachers, but I appreciate teachers. This week includes National Teachers’ Day and it is National Teacher Appreciation Week. It gives me a ready-made opportunity to express my profound appreciation for teachers.

  Teaching is one of the most important vocations in our society. In fact, it is a special calling. It is a calling that touches, shapes, and molds young minds for better or for worse. No other vocation provides such an opportunity to touch young, growing minds. Teachers often spend more time with our children than we do. Teaching is a precious gift.

  I have not always appreciated teachers, and I was a mean child. I remember one teacher giving me Cs when I made As. We clashed in a gigantic power of wills. I remember teachers refusing to call on me in class when I raised my hand. But I now know that I was an iron-willed child. I remember teachers beating me when, in my mind, I had done nothing wrong. I was a determined child and refused to accept responsibility for my own wrongdoings. I was extremely self-righteous and did not realize it. My teachers must have felt that they had to break my terrible spirit before someone else broke me later in life. I appreciate teachers.

  I did not always appreciate teachers. I remember hitting a teacher in the stomach. I thought I was right. My punishment was to stand in the corner of the classroom on one foot at a time for a whole week. Today I would have been expelled and handed over to law enforcement. I learned my lesson. I never hit another teacher. Sometimes I wonder what would happen to me if I were a student today.

  I remember Mr. G.L. Washington rescuing me from exile. When teachers banned me from speaking in classes, Mr. Washington rescued me. He was the principal, but he was our substitute teacher for that one day. He called on me over and over in class, and I answered over and over. He must have talked with my teachers because their approach changed after that day. They were teachers and educators. Teachers and educators banned me into exile. An educator rescued me from exile.

  I now know that everything that happened to me was part of my molding process. I was a very mean and willful child. I had to be dealt with. It was not just teachers with whom I struggled. I also struggled intensely with my mother. My mother once said, “If I had my ax, I would chop your mean head off.” I grew to appreciate my mother. I grew to appreciate my teachers. I appreciate teachers.

  I remember Mrs. James, who would not accept anything less than excellence from me and my classmates. She was my high school English teacher. Every time I write Sketches, I appreciate Mrs. James and other teachers.

  It makes me sad that we don’t really appreciate teachers. We pay them too little. We work them too hard. We demand too much from them. We criticize them too much. We support them too little. It is harder than ever to be a teacher these days.

  Teachers are the farmers of our minds. They cultivate our minds. It requires great faith to farm. Farmers plant seeds not knowing whether the seeds will come up; whether too little rain will fall and the earth will dry up; whether too much rain will fall and the seeds will wash away; whether the right amount of sunshine will come to create the right amount of warmth; whether bugs will devour the growing crops; and so forth. I appreciate farmers. I appreciate teachers.

  Teachers plant seeds in our minds, our hearts, and our spirits. Teachers never know if the soil of our minds, hearts, and spirits are sufficiently fertile, but they plant seeds anyway. They never know if the environment will create conditions that prompt growth or destruction. They never know if the next teacher will cultivate the seeds that take root and spring up. They never know if the environment outside of school will create deserts that dry up the learning or floods that wash away the seeds of learning and/or plants of learning. They never know what kind of harvest will ensue, but they keep planting and cultivating. It takes faith to be a teacher.

  I remember my college teachers who stimulated my mind and spirit. Mrs. Margaret Montgomery made me participate in theater. It helped me with my shyness. It helped me to grow in so many ways. But college teachers were just cultivating seeds that my elementary, junior high, and high school teachers had planted and cultivated.

  I wish we appreciated teachers more. I wish we went to see them for something right rather than for thinking they did something wrong. I wish we paid our teachers like they are among the most important professionals in the world. I wish we could find a way to lessen their load and have others assist in supplementary roles. I wish that teachers could just be lifted up instead of being torn down. I cannot grant teachers all or any of these wishes. I can, however, lift teachers on National Teachers’ Day and at every opportunity. I appreciate teachers.

Epilogue – How can we be thankful for that which we don’t really understand? How can we be thankful for that which we struggled against? I try to rise beyond my experiences and see the results of the gifts given to me. When I can do that, I am most thankful.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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