Public school. Charter school. Magnet school. Christian classical school. Private Christian school. Between our four children, we have been exposed to all of them. Four kids who have been through different stages with different needs and all these options fit at the time. For a season. When it was time to move on, we knew and we prayerfully made changes.
But what makes a school amazing? Teachers. Educators. Paras. Coaches. The ones who come in day after day, week after week and have the task to make learning come alive to a room of mismatched students who may or may not want to be there. The ones who teach and then coach a sport on the side. The ones who email me at 11:30 at night as they are just getting around to grading papers. The ones who welcome me into their classrooms to teach about the life cycle of the butterfly or life in the third world. Easy? No way. Is it a calling? Absolutely.
If my math is correct, (which I will not assume to be true but has nothing to do with teachers like Mr. Kendrick in 7th grade who tried his darndest to teach me), my children have had 85 different teachers between them. That is a LOT of teachers......their success academically clearly shows what they have learned from these teachers but I have recently asked the question- what have I learned from them?
Everybody has opinions about schools, but I have seen many people haphazardly stereotype schools without real knowledge about them. We generalize, make assumptions, and put them in categories which are often based on unrealistic conclusions. Why are we so quick to bash the type of schooling where our children are not? I believe it is because we desperately want to convince ourselves that the schools where are children are exceed all others to ease our minds that we are doing the right thing. So private schoolers bash public schoolers, homeschoolers bash private schoolers and we all walk around being prideful and unapproachable when it comes to education. I have been shamed so many times by people who disagree with our choice of schools that I don't even want to talk about it with people. I have had people assume my children are homeschooled because they are so grounded. Huh?? There are many avenues that lead to good kids. Seriously.
We, as parents, need to stay teachable. Being arrogant will get us nowhere. What happens when we need to change our child's schooling and we are too prideful to do so because we have spent so much of our time slamming the very school our child now needs? Not good. At all.
Quality teachers can be found in small schools, large ones, private and public. I would say that 90% of my children's teachers shared our Christian faith without crossing any ethical boundaries in the classroom. The ones who have not been Christians have indirectly taught my children how to respect someone with a different faith and we have had teachable moments at home about what that looks like.
The classroom is like a microcosm of the real world. Learning to get along, sharing, waiting for a chance to speak, following directions and trying to hold to a schedule- everyday our children are challenged with mastering these life skills. Priceless lessons that we need for the rest of our lives. We need teachers willing to work patiently with our children as they learn these life skills at their own pace.
Do they all do it successfully? No. So what about the teachers who have not been what my children have needed? I am thankful for them too. My children need to learn to adapt to different personalities and environments. We have had the school years when the pieces do not seem to be falling into place and in those moments, my children have learned to respect, even when personalities may not mix very well. Not always easy lessons, but one day it will be a boss, a co-worker, or a college roommate and they will need to know what it takes to find common ground with someone and work together.
I am not discounting that there are teachers who do a disservice to education. Some make horrible, ethically disastrous decisions and I am certainly not supporting that kind of behavior. We have not personally faced that but I am sure some have- that is a whole other category and I am sorry for anyone affected by those teachers.
As I have thought a lot about education lately, I asked each of my kids to name their favorite teachers. They could have named many but I had to narrow it down to two each just so this does not go on all day.
Here is what they said:
Mr. Morgan- McKeel Academy....wrestling coach and health teacher
"Mr. Morgan was a best friend looking out for me and holding me accountable. He was caring, spirited, and passionate about his faith."
Mrs. Grant- Dixieland Elementary, 5th grade
"Mrs. Grant was strict with love and always there to help."
Mrs. Maurer- Lakeland High School, 10th grade English
"Mrs. Maurer is very smart and hardcore but I learned the most in her class."
Mr. Cleveland- Lakeland High School, 11th grade English
"Mr. Cleveland relates well to his students and is very insightful."
Mr. Strawbridge- Geneva Classical Academy, many grades and subjecs- first of all, Coleman can barely put Mr. Strawbridge into words...the only ones he could get out at first were "the bomb" and "JUST SO AWESOME!!"
Then he said, "He is very down to earth and he is young, relates well to students, and is a very capturing teacher."
Dr. Phillips- Harrison School of the Arts, 9th grade guitar
"He is awesome because he is very determined and is an excellent guitarist so it is not hard to trust him. He is fun but strict."
Mr. Groff- Cleveland Court Elementary, 5th grade
"Mr. Groff is an incredible teacher and he takes the time to explain things to his students."
Mrs. Myers- Cleveland Court Elementary, 2nd grade
"Mrs. Myers is the best teacher because she is extremely nice and loves kids!"
The teachers who have personally taught me the most are:
Pam Norris, who taught Connor and Coleman in 2nd grade at Rochelle School of the Arts, is one of the most precious people I have ever know. Kindness exudes from her and my boys knew she was one of their biggest fans.
Doug Smith, retired Navy and teaching math at Genenva Classical Academy, was able to somehow weave so many life lessons into math that I learned from them second hand!
Naomi Wilson....the most precious teacher I ever had. It was 2nd grade at Cleveland Court Elementary in 1977. She was there for me when I really needed her. Losing her this year was heartbreaking.
So.....we keep on keeping on. Knowing we don't have all the answers and continually seeking the best options for each of our children, we must humbly choose the path best suited for them and appreciate the educators who give their lives away to them every day.