Words of Thanks to the Teachers in Our Life

Last year, as my three daughters left for their first day of school, I let you all in on a little tradition in our home, New Shoes and the First Day of School. Somehow the clock kept moving forward and today marks the beginning of  the next school year here in San Francisco.  I get all teary, because it seems as though every first day is one more reminder of both the gift that it is to nurture and shape our children as well as the struggle it is to let them go into the world to grow into who God intends.

Letting them go into the world of school each year is difficult  as each of our children becomes a unique human developing wonderful particularities, quirks and gifts that will lead them down a variety of roads throughout their life.  But . . . I also know that there is great joy is watching one’s children not only discover new things about the world, but to discover new things about their own yearnings and gifts as individuals and as a members of a larger community.

And while I would love to think that the ways in which my wife and I parent has a direct cause and effect on the development of our children, I am not so arrogant or foolish. We know our parenting is important, but we also know that we owe a great deal of thanks to the teachers in our lives who have answered a noble calling to public education. Recently public school teachers have received an unfair shake by some who have tried to paint broad strokes about educators which I believe are simply  unfair and fail to give teachers the respect and due that is deserved. Yes, there will always be teachers who fall short of the idealized educator, but for anyone to think that public educators are in any way wholly taking advantage of a system are, with all due respect, misinformed.  In my opinion, the ways in which society has “protected” those in the teaching profession is not about bad teachers, but about freeing teachers, people who have chosen one of THE most important professions in society, to teach.  I have written much more about this in previous posts, One More Christian in Support of Public Education and Three Affirmation for the San Francisco Unified School District, but for today, on this first day of school, I want to publicly say thank you to the teachers who have been such an important part of our children’s development into who they are and are becoming.

There are so many things to be thankful about when it comes to those who have taught our girls over the years. We have hopefully expressed our gratitude in more than these few words, but here are just a few more to remind you that there are many who truly appreciate the commitment you have to all children to whom you are charged to teach.

You know who you are . . .

  • Ms. C. – for creative ways in which you help children express themselves;
  • Ms. B. – for your adventurous spirit that allow kids to dream;
  • Mr. M. – for the humanity you bring that helps kids become genuinely good people;
  • Ms. Z. – for the obviously love you bring in helping our kids learn how to learn;
  • Ms. W. – for the commitment you bring to the whole child and the exploration you encourage;
  • Mr. R. – for the trust you give young people to become better individuals and a better community;
  • Ms. T. – for the passion you bring to the classroom;
  • Ms. C. – for your creativity and integrity with which you challenge children to learn;
  • Ms. S. – for the honesty and challenge you bring to the classroom;
  • Ms. V. – for your commitment to the body, mind and spirit of each child that you teach;

There are countless middle school teachers, coaches, administrators and other parents who have played a huge role in the educational life of our kids and for you we are grateful as well.  If you know a teacher, whether or not your kids are in public education, please take a moment to share a word of thanks.

Have a great year and again, thank you!

PS: The picture above is of my oldest daughter on her first day of school now nine years ago. With great joy and trepidation we send her to a another first . . . high school, and the beginning of a new adventure.  For some reason she is not all that keen on her mom and dad walking her to her first day of class dressed in matching Hawaiian print and camera in hand. Sheesh ;-)  Mom and dad are proud of you and we hope you have a great first day!

Musings on the silliness that is 8th grade “graduation”

I really should start a new blog called either “Get off my lawn” or “When I was a kid . . .” because as I get older, these things sure are fun to say to my children.  And as I do so, with rolling eyes and a playful retort, we dance the dance that is called parenting.  My kids know that I am messing with them because they know that I believe that young people today live a dramatically different life than I did.  Sure, there are some more comforts  and new technologies in life, but overall, I have no doubt that the cultural and social pressures they face would have made my head explode when I was a child.

Young people today are amazing. Period.

And this is the season when we are reminded how much we love celebrating our children as across the country young people traverse stages: graduating from college, high school . . . middle school . . .  kindergarten and yes even preschool.

Oh silly United States . . .what’s next, newborn caps and gowns? *smh*

I have been teasing my oldest daughter – pictured as she got on the bus the first day of school – about the magnitude of the “graduation” festivities that mark her final year of middle school.  The conversation usually goes like this,

Me, “So, how are the 8th Grade promotion plans going?”

Eldest with eyes rolled to the back of her head and a deep sigh, “Daaaaad . . . it is GRADUATION!”

Me, “Um . . . no, not really, because they are not giving you a diploma and it’s not like you have the option of stopping and declaring you are done with school . Happy PROMOTION sweetheart, we are so proud.”

Eldest pretends not to hear me.

Now I do talk big, but we are doing our part in contributing to the crazy that are graduation plans at my daughters’ school: caps and gowns, dance, special breakfast, water park outing, etc.  Yeah, we are feeding the monster.  Part of me thinks this is just silly, just a level above having preschoolers “graduate” into kindergarten.  Not only does this give a sense of importance for some transitions that really should be assumed and expected from and for our young people, these “graduations” can also exacerbate the divisions that exist around socioeconomics and class.

After all, when I was a kid  . . . we just went to the next stage of school, no parties, no faux commencements and certainly not a huge deal over something that should be a social norm – private, public or homeschool – going to kindergarten, then middle school, then high school.  After that . . . sure, you can be done.  Might not always be a great idea, but high school, now THAT’S a graduation.

But it really is not all that easy, so putting away my old fart persona for a minute, let me share what is also wonderful about this time.   As I watch my daughter and her friends enter this new time their life, I think it is important to acknowledge these kinds of transitions and in someway reclaim the expressions of some rites of passage.  I think that society assumes that kids will just grow up on their own, after all, they embrace technology and change so much better than the generation before.  While they might be a more adaptive generation, we too often forget that they are also kids in need of acknowledgement, guidance and community.  Marking these moments, not only with “oh how wonderful you are” celebrations, but also with an acknowledgment of the importance and responsibility that this new stage brings it vital for you young people.

Some kids have low expectation about their education, they have no one who really believes in them and the last thing that may happen in their life is a big celebration for finishing the eight grade.  And then there are others who have become so entitled to these things that the gravity of the privilege of education and community is lost on them.  We must try to meet both kids so both may see that during this crucial time in their life, people believe in them, a community excited for what is ahead and there is great responsibility that comes with the gift of education.

So for those who are graduating from eight grade, congratulations.  So many are proud of you, what you have done and who you are becoming. Enjoy the summer and then get to high school already ;-)


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