Hug a teacher

thank-a-teacher-appleWhere I live, a new school year has just begun. Summer vacation is over, to a mix of relief and chagrin for students and families alike.

Not to mention the teachers.

There are plenty of teachers in my family. My grandfather, whom I loved, was a university professor. I can still remember the moment, sitting in the back of a grad school classroom, that I suddenly and decisively knew that I would follow in his footsteps. It felt like something in the universe had just clicked into place — So that’s what God wants me to do with my life!

My wife is a high school calculus teacher, and a darned good one. And my son and daughter-in-law are both teachers, too. We can ask each other if we’ve had our annual “school dream” yet, and everyone knows what that means. (For the record: it’s the nightmare many teachers have at the beginning of the year about not being able to find your classroom, or showing up in your pajamas, or having a mob of unruly students — and no, I haven’t had mine yet.)

I know first-hand (and second-hand, and third-hand) how much time and energy it takes to be dedicated to your craft. (Some of my own students, aspiring professors themselves, are astonished when I tell them to expect to spend about twenty hours preparing for each hour they lecture.) Many teachers, who have their own families to tend to, spend hours each night in lesson planning, preparation, grading, writing notes to parents, etc. And often, they must do this in contexts where budget cuts have slashed the resources they need to do their job the way they wish they could.

Here in America, the beginning of the school year will soon be eclipsed by a presidential election, one with incredible potential to polarize the public. It’s not crazy to be concerned about the future of our nation.

But the future of our nation is right there in front of us: it’s our children, our youth. Where will we find the adults who will love them, guide them, and be examples of good character and citizenship?

Parents, of course. But I want to put in a plug for teachers. Our younger children, in some of their most formative years, spend in the neighborhood of 1,000 hours with a single teacher. High schoolers will have well over 100 hours with each of a variety of teachers.

That’s a lot of influence.

And teachers, it’s not just about your knowledge of or passion for your subject, though that certainly matters. The students who will remember you fondly, the ones who will come back years later to visit you, are the ones you impacted personally by the kind of person you are. Their lives can be profoundly affected for the better by something you don’t even remember saying, or just because you took the time to listen.

And don’t discount this: if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you bear his imprint. That 100 to 1,000 hours you will have with each of your students this year? That’s how many hours your students can be exposed to the Spirit of Christ in you.

Moms and Dads: hug a teacher. Encourage and empower them. Don’t give teachers a reason to fear an adversarial relationship. It’s true that some teachers have lost their way, lost their sense of passion and mission — often because they have become disillusioned and worn out. But most truly want to be helpful, if you approach them in a spirit of teamwork.

Raising a generation of healthy and responsible adults is a team effort. Parents and teachers, schools and churches: let’s find ways to work together toward a common goal.