Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Teachers

"It's lovely to know that the world can't interfere with the inside of your head." ~ Frank McCourt

Daily Good wrote a beautiful tribute to Frank McCourt today. Mr. McCourt passed away last week after having written a set of prize-winning books regarding his childhood in Ireland and his career teaching in New York City public schools. I love those books; I began reading them when I first moved to New York 11 years ago. Having gone to public school myself, his stories brought back some fun memories from my own childhood and gave me a new perspective on teaching and writing.

Now years later, I volunteer with Junior Achievement of New York, teaching in New York City public schools. I should revisit his second book, Teacher Man, to refresh my memory and learn from his. His book would also be useful as I prepare to pitch a pilot project that I’d like to launch in a New York public school in January. That’s the beauty of writing out our stories and lessons learned – they invariably help someone else down the line. Mr. McCourt is a wonderful example to illustrate that it's never too late to tell your story; he published his first book, Angela's Ashes, when he was 66. It won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

The Daily Good post got me thinking about all of the incredible teachers I’ve been fortunate to have all my life. Though I went to public school in a rural town in upstate New York, I had teachers who believed in me and inspired me every day. It is a rare gift, and I never took it for granted. I’ve been thinking lately that I should break out my stacks of stationery and write them all letters to thank them for giving their lives to help people like me.

I went on to attend two wonderful universities, also with a slate of brilliant and inspiring teachers. Through my life I’ve had a few constants – my mom and my cell phone number immediately come to mind. And I always had the benefit of excellent teachers.

Teachers don’t get enough credit or praise. Their hours are long and yet some people discount teaching as a profession because many have their summers off. In truth, they put in a whole lot of extra time over the 9 months when school is in session, much more time than a lot of people in corporate jobs.

When I worked at Rollins College, Doc Rodgers, one of the theatre professors would joke that he was heading off to class to “shape young minds”. And while he always said it in jest, it’s absolutely true. Teachers take this responsibility of shaping young minds very seriously, and we should, too, by supporting them and thanking them for all that they've done and will continue to do on our behalf. Our futures depend on them.
The photo above is Frank McCourt in his New York City classroom.

1 comment:

runner52 said...

Excellent piece....write your teachers, they'll appreciate it