No. 326

It has been said that a school is “Where parents send their very best efforts.” In the past several years the American school system has been harshly criticized because we lag behind most of the industrialized world in student performance. While scoring high on math and science tests is certainly to be desired, it is not the final criteria for a student’s success later in life. I find it difficult to criticize our schools when the United States of America is the envy of the rest of the world.
That said, all of us need to be supportive of our nation’s schools, and especially in our own community, because they are entrusted with our greatest resource; our children. What prompted these thoughts was a letter I received from a resource person in the Cookeville Tennessee Public School System. Incidentally, I have it on good authority that this school system does an excellent job of educating its students.
This person is Joy Wallace and she tells me that she has found her calling. I wish all teachers, teacher’s aids and resource people felt the same way. Let me share her letter with you, because her positive attitude is infectious. She begins, “After reading your column in our local paper, the Herald-Citizen, I was compelled to write. I ,too, have found my calling!! I recently moved to Tennessee from Florida, where I lived most of my life. I love it here and know that I have been sent here to do what I do best.
I am an in-school suspension person making barely above minimum wage. I am not in it for the money. Instead I touch the lives of students in the 5th & 6th grades. I help them to think about why they did what they did to get in trouble. I help them to find themselves during their time with me. I do not believe that they should just be punished, but also be held accountable for their actions that they chose to take and to make better choices next time.
One student recently asked me why I do what I do. My reply was easy, “I was once one of you.” I said, “I am here because if there had been someone like me around when I was your age, I would have made better choices.” Then I told him I was there to also help him become a success at whatever he chose to do in life. Needless to say, he realized that I cared and that many other teachers and adults really do care about their students. He has not been back to my room except to say hello since that day.
She concludes by saying, “Yes, I know I have found my calling!! If I can successfully help one child to choose the right path, then that makes me successful. Not the dollar amount in my paycheck. Thank you for your time.” Thank you, Joy. I was moved by your letter because I know it came from your heart. I appreciate your taking time to write and I hope your words prove to be a real inspiration to countless other teachers and resource people across the country.
Later, as I thought about her letter I was reminded again of just how important good teachers really are. As in any profession or career, some do a better job than others, but one of the most important qualities any teacher can have is to really care about his or her students. While it may be trite, it is never-the-less true. They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. They will remember that long after the As and Bs are forgotten. I ran across a wonderful little quotation by the American Poet Robert Frost that for me, pretty well sums it up. He said there are two kinds of teachers, “The kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can’t move, and the kind that just give you a little prod and you jump to the skies.” (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)