I have the privilege of being a substitute teacher at the school my daughter Emma attended in middle school and high school. The word privilege sounds like hyperbole when you’re talking about being a substitute teacher, but it’s not.
When Emma was a student at the Atlanta Girls’ School, I was a vocal fan of the school and admired the faculty. I got involved in everything from the PTA to supporting extracurricular activities and hosting events at our home. Eventually, I became co-president of the PTA. My duties included meeting monthly with the Head of School. I felt like I knew the place intimately. I didn’t.
When I became a substitute teacher, I discovered what the school is at its core. It’s a place where teachers are all in, fully committed to teaching students with compassion, love and respect. They will do just about anything to get a girl over a hurdle, working as a team.
Today was the first day of pre-planning for the new school year. I am a long-term substitute teacher this year, so I get to look deeper into the heart of the school by participating in activities. Just before lunch, two teachers stood before us and shared why they became teachers, pouring their hearts and souls into their stories. Each story was a bouquet.
When I looked at schools for my children, the first thing I did was flip though the brochures to find the list of colleges students attended. Then I lapped up the bells and whistles each school offered, all the unique and special programs. This was a mistake. All that really matters is the teachers. The rest is sprinkles and chocolate syrup.
If I were looking for a school for either of my children today, I’d figure out how to politely ask what the teachers were paid versus their peers in other schools and about their benefits. I’d try to sneak a peek at the teachers’ lounge. Teachers should have a nice lounge. They don’t have offices or other private spaces.
I’m sending an apology into the atmosphere for every teacher I ever annoyed or insulted. I have no doubt I did both on more occasions than I realize. If you’re a teacher and your reading this, please know I think you’re an angel simply because you chose to be a teacher. There are few other professions where someone shares so much of their heart.