It had been a long, hot and muggy Chicago summer. I was the principal of a private school that had decided to move to a new building, and I had spent countless hours...
The Heart of America
You turn the page on the calendar and you are shocked to see AUGUST show up in bold block letters. And, if the name on the top didn’t quite register, the two words right there on the bottom of the calendar page, scrawled across August 22-26 certainly get your attention: Staff Meetings!!! We all know what the bold block letters on the next page will show. It’s the page with First Day, Back to School Night, Meet the Teacher Picnic, etc.
On the one hand, you, the teacher, cannot believe the summer has passed so quickly. (Modern science has yet to explain why the hours of summer have significantly fewer minutes than do the hours of winter.) But, as you gear up for yet another school year, you surprise even yourself as you realize that you’re actually excited. Sure, another few weeks of vacation would’ve been welcomed, but your heart beats just a bit faster knowing that in just a few weeks time you will stand at attention to pledge allegiance with yet another class.
What is it that excites the teacher? It can’t be the thought of another overcrowded classroom, understaffed support team or critical parent committee. It’s probably not the long hours, lost weekends or low pay either. So, why?
It’s because teachers are warriors. Years ago I was shown a quote from James Hamilton which read: “If I had a child who wanted to be a teacher, I would bid him Godspeed as if he were going to a war. For indeed the war against prejudice, greed and ignorance is eternal, and those who dedicate themselves to it give their lives no less because they may live to see some fraction of the battle won.”
While parents provide a child with life, it is the teacher who makes that life worth living. The opportunity to make a difference, to, in some measure, change the world for the better, is what inspires teachers. Teaching is thus part art, part skill, part science, part innate and part learned. But it is all heart.
As September nears, that heart beats a bit faster. The battle Hamilton spoke about rages today as well. Prejudice, greed and ignorance have not been vanquished; weakened perhaps but very much alive and as significant a threat as ever. But the teacher is ready. Armed with the ability to transfer knowledge, inculcate morals and fashion a thinking adult, education steps into the fray and fights for the common good. As the new school year nears, we too wish them Godspeed. Summers come and go, but the difference teachers make lasts a lifetime.