Because of a Teacher

Last Tuesday, I experienced that weird role reversal of parent-teacher conferences. Suddenly, I felt that same anxiety that I had seen with so many of the parents of my former students. Were my son and daughter doing okay? Were they making friends? Were they being respectful? Were they mastering the standards?

My son and daughter love their teachers and these conferences were proof that their teachers love them as well. I was struck by just how well each of them knew my son and daughter — not just as students but as people. They showed evidence of student work, shared stories of social interactions, and offered insights that I might have missed otherwise.

I left with a sense of trust and gratitude for what these two teachers every single day. I realize that it’s November and it’s cold and wet. It’s dark before these teachers show up and it’s dark when they leave. I taught middle school for over a decade. I remember how hard late November and early December can be. And yet, these teachers are being intentional about making sure my kids have a safe, caring environment where they are also challenged academically.

That’s pretty awesome.

A few days later, it was Thanksgiving, and I shared the following video on my Facebook page.

But I kept thinking of their teachers throughout the break. When Brenna chose a more challenging chapter book, she mentioned the word work she had done in class and talked about how fun it was to be in a reading group. And it struck me that her ability to read and even her passion for reading was because of a teacher. At eight o’clock last night as they grabbed their various novels and started reading, I was struck by the fact that they were all passionate readers.

Because of teachers.

When we were waiting at a restaurant, we played mental math games. They were thinking through problems and playing with numbers like it was a game. None of them are scared of math (like I was as a kid). In fact, they each think math is fun.

Because of teachers.

When Joel grabbed a pile of items and decided to create his own engineering challenge, he began sharing stories of his engineering class. “Dad, could we tour George Fox’s makerspace. I think I might want to major in it someday.” He’s in seventh grade. His interests might change but he has a passion for problem-solving that he’s developed in his STEM classes. He learning to think like an engineer.

Because of teachers.

When Micah sat down to write a story, he mentioned the blogging he was doing in class and talked about the story-planning process he had learned. When we watched movies, all three of them talked about the plot, the characters, and the themes that emerged. When we worked on our Scratch video game projects, they each asked if they could show the process to their teachers at school.

My kids love learning. They geek out for fun. They love to build and tinker and solve problems and get lost in the world of a novel. As I watch them own their learning, I am struck by the countless hours that teachers have invested in their life. I mention this because I still see so much teacher bashing out there. I’ve seen people mock teachers for wanting a living wage. I’ve listened to the eye-rolling statements about how much “free time” teachers have.

But here’s the thing. When I look at my kids, I am struck by the profound influence that teachers have had on their lives so far. They are becoming problem-solvers and makers. They are growing more empathetic. They are thinking more deeply and falling in love with learning. And this is happening because of teachers.

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John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

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