My parents were my educational bookends. My mother was my Kindergarten teacher and later when I was in high school, my dad was one of my teachers as well as my basketball coach.
That’s why I say they were my educational bookends. I started down the road of my education with one, and concluded high school with the other.
Education was non-negotiable in our house. It was never “if” I went to college, it was always “when” I went to college.
So four years after I graduated high school, I graduated college with my degree as well.
I even married a schoolteacher for crying out loud.
I’ve seen the long hours. I’ve seen all the after hours, nighttime, and weekend work that goes into being a teacher or working at a school too. I have first hand witnessed the frustrations, the trying to make do with what little resources are available, and the stresses of being an educator.
If you think it’s just some cushy 8-3 job, you have no clue what these professionals really do, or the impact they make in our children’s lives.
You would not be reading this blog today if weren’t for six teachers I had over the course of my educational life.
Ms. Allison and the late Mr. Bennett were two elementary school teachers of mine who found a way to foster the imagination and creativity of a young boy who wouldn’t sit still and was always up to something.
Hal Denton in middle school unearthed and then fostered my love for the written word and in particular my own writing.
When I was in high school Jack Sallee and Jean Jones continued to fuel my passion for history, reading, writing, and organizational thinking.
And even in college, Dr. Albert Wilhelm fueled my fervor for literature, for reading, and for using written words to express ideas.
The man I am today is an amalgamation of the ideas, lessons, and practices that the teachers in my life fostered within me all those years ago.
Now I have a son in special education. He doesn’t just have a teacher; he has a team.
He has a team of teachers, classroom assistants, therapists, and other service providers.
Or as we like to call them, Team JA. Over the years, they have become like family.
Are they perfect? No.
But neither am I.
Do we sometimes disagree with his team on things concerning our child? Yes.
Do Becky and I sometimes disagree on things concerning our child? Yes.
Do they have our son’s best interests at heart? Absolutely.
Do they pour themselves into our son every day? Absolutely.
Do they genuinely care for my son? Absolutely.
A lot of special needs parents feel like IEP is a four-letter word. And I’m truly sorry for those of you who have had or feel you have had bad experiences.
By the way dads, if you have the ability to get off work and go to your child’s IEP meeting, but you choose not to go, you just forfeited your right to ever complain.
I want you to stop and think about this for a moment with me. These people made a CHOICE to go into special education. They work in an imperfect system with limited resources to go around. They spend their days tending to our special needs children. Not just one or two kids- but an entire room full of kids all with individualized needs.
Imagine your child.
Now imagine a room full of your child.
Now imagine a room full of your child…for 7 hours a day, five days a week.
Then they go home, take care of their own families, and try to find some sense of balance with their own life and the needs of their families.
They deserve honor, respect, grace, and our thanks for what they have chosen to do with their lives. I think they are heroes.
I have a fairly high opinion of my own abilities, and I know I couldn’t and wouldn’t do what they do for any amount of money. And I certainly wouldn’t do it for the pittance they get paid.
I’m so thankful for our local special education department. In fact, I’m so grateful that I decided Rising Above Ministries would adopt our county’s entire special education department.
So I guess now they really are family.
This is Teacher Appreciation Week.
You know how there are days when you could really benefit from a little encouragement and affirmation yourself?
Go out of your way this week to thank the educators in your child’s life and express gratitude for all that they do for your child. Speak an encouraging word or take them a little gift.
They are a blessing. Now it’s our turn to bless them back.