Wednesday, October 01, 2008

O Captain, My Captain!

*Mad applause to those who know where this post's title came from, with respect to what I'm talking about here.

Madonna, in an interview in the first issue of the late JFK Jr.'s George magazine many years ago, said that if she were president of the United States, then she'd make sure teachers were paid more than celebrities. Or something to that effect.

I'm a fan of Madge's music - though not always of her philosophies - but in this case, I agree with a certain extent. I think those teachers who are dedicated to their calling should be paid more than peanuts - which would just be a bonus from the satisfaction they get from the effect they have on their charges' lives.

Take this teacher, for instance. Let's call him Teacher Norman. (Because that's his name. Hahaaaa...)

Whenever my children's school holds events open for public consumption (read: parents are invited to watch/participate on pain of death) one of the teachers with the most visible profiles is Teacher Norman. Especially when said events involve dancing. It seems like this guy is a big part of choreographing the little ones' dance presentations. At the crucial hour, he's in the spotlight with the munchkins in whatever dance it may be, and all on the same day: rhythmic exercises, chacha, swing, etc., guiding the little ones' steps. That's apart from the dance presentations with other teachers shown sometimes.

What impresses me is how the kids look up to him, and how he doesn't manifest any bit of self-consciousness in front of the crowd. I can't dance in front of a group of people; nor can I handle dozens of kids on a daily basis.

Over the years, I've noticed Teacher Norman's watchfulness over the kids even while he himself is performing. It's more than just being like a big brother to them. He's being a teacher, and the respect he gets from the children comes not only from the authority of his position, but from the way he personally interacts with them. He does his work passionately, and I think the kids sense that and somehow appreciate it.

Seeing Teacher Norman in action once again brought to mind the teachers who made an impact on me when I was younger. But it was only after some years had passed that I realized just how much they had influenced me.

One of them was Teacher Evelyn, who taught Social Studies and Science when I was 15 - my son's age now. It wasn't only that she made those subjects come alive for many of her students. God knows, I've had teachers for the same subjects who made me want to cry because of sheer boredom. No, what made her stand out for me was the time and effort she took to get to know her students as individual persons - and not just as a collective mass of hormone-hyperactive teenagers. A stern taskmaster lay behind her twinkling eyes; she was a major reason for my high school accomplishments. She was a wonderful teacher who helped me believe in myself.

Another outstanding educator I had was Señorita Teresita, my Spanish professor in college. Learning Spanish from her, we weren't confined to hot, dusty classrooms mumbling conjugations under our collective bored breaths. Oh, no no no. She sat with us - coming to class a few minutes early and leaving a few minutes late - to talk to us about anything and everything - in Spanish! She made the works of our national hero, José Rizal, seem like vibrant pieces of literature - which they are. I realized that sooner, because of her. She kinda played hooky with us by bringing us to Spanish cafés and restaurants to teach us how to properly consume chocolate y churros. I'm sure she would've taken us to Spain if she could've! But teachers at the state university couldn't afford such things back then. I don't think the situation here has changed all that much over the years in terms of salary.

So, yes, Madonna. I do agree teachers should be paid more. Specifically those who are teachers in the true sense of the word, and not just those who "teach" to make a living. Wake up and smell the chalk dust! It isn't just a job; it's a job with a heavy responsibility. I hope each one of you has had a Teacher Norman or a Teacher Evelyn or a Señorita Teresita in your lives: a mentor, someone who helped shape your life when you were younger and at your most impressionable - whether or not he or she has a degree in education.

And if you're one such, hats off to you. Not that I usually wear hats, but you get the idea. I can only say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

My teachers might not remember me now after all these years. But I sure as heck will never forget them.

Now if I were President of the World, what would I give to true teachers? many students as I could give you. God knows the world needs your kind more than ever.

Plus a beach house in your tropical country of choice...and an unlimited supply of chocolate.


Burton said...

That title comes from one of my absolute favorite movies, Lizza.

Wonderful post.

I've been fortunate to know a few true teachers in my time. The shining star? Mrs. Lincoln. Paralyzed from the neck down, she taught first grade from her wheelchair. She inspired me everyday by never letting her circumstances stand in the way of her passion.

23 years later, she is still my captain.

Travis said...

Yes, Uncle Walt could turn the phrase.

I've always believed that teaching is a calling and real teachers would do it for free. I can't imagine anyone goes into the profession to get rich. It's a lot of hard work and I have tremendous respect for those who choose the path.

If I were the ruler of all things, I would second you in giving them more students, along with my respect and anything else I could find to make the job easier.

Daddy Papersurfer said...

Originally Uncle Walt of course but Burton has the enigmatic answer of course - it all depends on what society you keep.

Great teachers are far and few between. I like the ones that teach you without you quite realising that you're being taught ....... this is why I think I know nothing and taught even less ...... tee hee

Photo Cache said...

I believed I have performed/entered that piece in many a declamation contest in the past.

Teachers are underappreciated every where you go.

I am proud to be associated with teachers when I first entered the labor force. Hats off teach!

citizen of the world said...

Carpe Diem!

Damned good movie and damned good post.

Glamourpuss said...

As an ex-teacher, I agree. The esteem in which we are held by society is pretty low, and yet we do one of the most important jobs in society.


Bud Weiser, WTIT said...

Between jobs some eight years ago I taught (sub) for almost a year. It is very hard and rewarding work. Well done, Lizza...

Lizza said...

Burton: Somehow I knew you loved that movie too. :-)

Your Mrs. Lincoln sounds like an amazing teacher. Imagine all the lives she helped shape notwithstanding her physical limitations.

Trav: Yes, the good that true teachers give to us has no monetary value. Still, maybe an unlimited supply of chocolate - in addition to unsuppressed appreciation for all they do - could be a good thing. :-)

DaddyP: And that's why I would've loved to have you as one of my teachers!

Photo: You were a teacher? Ohh, the stories about those days you must have in you!

Citizen: Thank you, and yes, it was a damned good movie. Saw it again recently and giggled at how young Ethan Hawke was in it.

Puss: True teachers should never be taken for granted. Alas...

Bud: Thanks, my friend. Man, those days must've been a different way from the other colors of your life.

Anonymous said...

yes, a very enjoyable movie, and also sad. I was taught by nuns and for the most part they were more concerned with turning out "young ladies" than anything else.

though I did have an excellent English teacher who encouraged my love of language and words. thank you Sister Augustine. I heard she later left the convent and got married :-)


Lizza said...

It would be interesting if the nuns could see your Friday posts, Nursy. ;-)

nursemyra said...

I don't think the nuns would forgive any part of my blog Lizza