By NY Fellow Amber Chandler
There’s going to be lots of “favorite teacher” and “inspirational teacher” blogs written this week, and I’m loving reading them. But, I want to tell you about a different kind of teacher, one not like me. You see, I stick myself in the limelight. I write blogs. I’m all over Twitter and LinkedIn. I want people to see and hear me. I think important work happens at school and don’t mind self-promotion, mainly because I feel strongly that most professions recognize the work of their employees far better and more often than the field of education. But that is another blog, for another time, which you’ll hear all about because I’ll tell you.
Today, though, I want to tell you about the teacher in the background, the one that doesn’t say much at the faculty meeting, the one who hasn’t published anything since his Master’s project, the one who is the last to leave because students love to be in her room after school because she pops popcorn, puts on the radio, and gives those who have no good place to go, a great place to be. Those teachers are the quiet majority whose only intention is serving students, not wrapped up in changing the world like some of us are. They are too busy saving kids.
Those teachers are the quiet majority whose only intention is serving students, not wrapped up in changing the world like some of us are. They are too busy saving kids.
Our students’ parents don’t always see the tissue passed discreetly to the child with the incessantly running nose, the late pass written to the next class for a middle school boy who was crying because he didn’t make the basketball team and didn’t want to everyone to see, or the extra sweatshirt some of us save to hand to kids who are in short sleeves on a fall day. None of these teachers do this because they will get “credit” or “professional development” or “merit pay.” They are not seen, but rather they are the light that students feel shining on them, a ray of warmth. They do this because they are teachers.
Even teachers don’t always recognize the value in a teacher who doesn’t always play by the rules, but never backs down when helping a child. Sometimes there’s that rogue teacher who will bend every rule to benefit a child, or who will be the voice of opposition when the “new idea” is really a bad one that has been recycled with a new name. This teacher might argue with another teacher on a child’s behalf in an infuriating way. But, that teacher has noticed something important: she is the only voice for that child.
So, during a week like this, look past the teacher comfortable in the spotlight and on stage; instead, look for the props people who make sure everything is in the right place and everyone has what they need. Look to the lighting directors who understand when the scene needs to shift or a character emphasized. Look for the technical assistant who can see the big picture. Seek out the set designer who makes ideas real. Look for the stage manager who works tirelessly. Find the costume designer who makes something quite special out of what others don’t want anymore. Do you see the person passing out programs, providing the audience with what they need to know? The teacher in the spotlight is no more important than those who do the work without a light shining on them; in fact, it is easy to see that those are the teachers whose light shines most brightly from within.