The Gift of Education: A Follow-Up

For any of you who read my post on the Gift of Education, you will know that I met with Mini Me’s teacher this week. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read that post here:

To make a long story short, Muppet and I were a bit worried about Mini Me being in the top half of a grade 4/5 split. He’s a bright kid and rarely gets a grade lower than a B+. We wanted to make sure that he wasn’t going to fall through the cracks, that he would be challenged, and not allowed to coast, which he would do happily if allowed.

A teacher friend of mine pointed out kindly that we are lucky that we have these kinds of problems and I totally appreciate that. That was why I was having anxiety about approaching the teacher to begin with. I don’t like causing problems, or making an issue of things, but I guess what I learned about myself is that when it comes to my kids, all bets are off. I will do whatever it takes to make sure they’re ok. Thank you Mothering Instinct. Glad to see you’re in full working order.

So, off I go to meet the teacher. I sent the kids home ahead of me so we could feel free to talk in privacy, and I honestly couldn’t be happier. Mr. D. is probably around my age (40-something) and he is no newbie to this business. He has also taught grade 6 for the last 7 years. He listened to my concerns, and said that he was really glad I came to see him. He said that when teaching grade 6 he often saw kids who would hit a wall academically because they had never learned how to work hard or face challenges, and by then he was trying to get those kids over a huge hump in their school careers before sending them off to junior high. He found it frustrating. Having me air my concerns about Mini Me meant that he was really taking stock of his abilities, as well as those of all his other kids, individually. He had even started giving my boy some grade 6 math, which he was overjoyed to tackle. I left feeling that all of my questions had been answered and that my kid was going to have a fun, rewarding year with a teacher who really ‘gets’ him.

Which really got me fuming again about the way our teachers are treated. Here in Canada, teachers are paid more than in the United States, but yet in the province of Ontario (where I live) the government has just passed a bill to freeze teacher’s wages, cut sick days and deny them the right to strike for two years. WTF?

In our school, teachers run numerous after school clubs and sports activities so that our kids can be healthy, fit and involved. They volunteer at the fun fair and sit in the dunk tank, they meet with parents on their own time, and go the extra mile to help the kids who really need it. They do all of this on top of caring for our kids from 9am to 3:30pm five days a week. For some kids, that is more time than they spend with their parents. And yet, we want to freeze their wages? Try pulling that one on most CEOs in this country.

I volunteer in the classroom and go on field trips regularly. I see first-hand what those teachers are dealing with and I know that I only get the tip of the iceberg. These people are handling a classroom full of rambunctious, hormonal, distracted, chatty little people and trying to actually teach them something. And not just that, but teach according to a strict curriculum with definite expectations about what has to be accomplished. Then you need to add in the kids who have behavioral problems, learning disorders, anxiety, problems at home, abuse, bullying… It is teachers who often identify these problems. I know teachers who have had to call Children’s Aid. I can’t even imagine how stressful that must be and how much you want to just grab that kid and hug them and hide them from what their life must be like, but you can’t because you have to maintain a professional distance. And we say these men and women need to have their sick days cut?

I just spend the majority of the summer (minus two weeks of camp) with my two fairly functional and well-behaved children and found it mentally exhausting. The bickering and fighting, the nagging and demands. Monkey is only just passed the stage where parenting s also physically demanding. The picking up and carrying, dressing them, being called in to help with every little thing.  Come September, I feel like I need a holiday. And yet, we begrudge our teachers having 8 weeks off in the summer? Please. I’m sure it takes them about 3 weeks to stop twitching from the stress of being responsible for all of our kids, then the last two weeks are spent with that slowly creeping feeling of anxiety for another school year. I have been told that no teacher sleeps well the night before the first day of school. What will the kids be like? Will they have a low-key class, or a challenging one? Which kids will need special help and which will cause problems? I shudder just thinking about it.

My kids have been so lucky to have some truly amazing teachers in their lives and it has helped them to love learning. From what I am seeing now, we have hit on two gems again. I think this is going to be another stellar year



One thought on “The Gift of Education: A Follow-Up

  1. Word. Being a teacher is one job I think I could never handle. It’s incredible to me that people go into the classroom, day after day, and maintain enthusiasm. They’re more than just our kids’ teachers, they’re important members of the whole community. I’m on their side.

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