I come from a long line of school teachers. My grandmother, Elsie Benson Storms, taught in a one-room country schoolhouse in Iowa. She continued teaching well into her late 30s, which delayed her marriage to my grandfather.
In the early part of the 1900s teachers signed contracts that required them to abide by the following set of strict rules:
- You will not marry during the term of your contract. You are not to keep company with men.
- You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless attending a school function.
- You may not loiter downtown in any ice cream stores.
- You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
- You may not smoke cigarettes.
- You may not under any circumstances dye your hair.
- You may not dress in bright colors.
- You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
- You must wear at least two petticoats.
- Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.
Like my grandmother, my parents were both school teachers. My dad taught junior high social studies for 30 years, and my mom is now retired after a long career in the field of special education. My sister carries on the family tradition by teaching second grade. I am a college professor, teaching print media.
As a child, I knew my parents worked hard. They would bring home tall stacks of papers to grade in the evenings. I remember helping my dad average end of term grades, and preparing bulletin boards and craft projects for my mom’s class.
Through my family’s example and through the many teachers who have impacted my own life, I have seen that teaching is an honorable profession. It is a job that promises little financial reward and demands great effort, discipline and patience. Teachers must smile every day, whether they are feeling well or not. They have to deal with students who don’t behave, who don’t listen, and who don’t always learn. They are asked to be patient, creative, kind, and faithful.
Teachers grade endless papers, checking for the same mistakes. They review the same curriculum year after year, helping each generation of young people learn the names of the same 50 states and the correct way to construct a paragraph. Although they are now allowed to marry and frequent ice cream shops, they are still expected to be role models for those they teach.
The National Education Association reports that almost 4 million teachers will be needed by the year 2014. And, they estimate, almost half of the new teachers hired will leave the profession in the first five years of teaching due to working conditions and low salaries.
Take time today to thank the teachers you know. Remember also those teachers who have been instrumental in your own life – the ones who gave you words of encouragement or who pointed you toward the profession you do today.
Remember to express your gratitude to your children’s teachers – to those men and women who patiently serve your child on a daily basis.
Donald Quinn once wrote that “If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job.”
To the teachers who have changed my own life (Mrs. Hart, Mrs. Grossner, Mrs. Devane, Mrs. McElry, Mr. Pitts, Mrs. Jankowski, Mr. Gansauer, Dr. De Rosset, Dr. James, to name just a few...) thank you for the many ways you have made a difference in my life.