September 21, 2014

Good Teachers: Leaving a Lasting Impression

A little over a year ago, President Obama came to Syracuse, visiting one of our high schools to promote his plan to make college more affordable, and talking about the power of education.  As I noted in a post that day, I was a bit surprised that he barely mentioned teachers in his speech; I can't imagine anyone talking about the value and power of education without mentioning the folks who make it possible for someone to realize that value and power -- the dedicated teachers who give it their all to open the hearts and minds of kids to the world of possibility that awaits them.

I thought of Obama's visit Friday night, when I saw again the power of a teacher, the impact a teacher can have on a student.

My mother, who's been retired for 28 years, still lives in Jordan, a small community west of Syracuse, where she spent the bulk of her career teaching elementary school.  Friday night, we were strolling the grounds at the Jordan Fall Festival when all of the sudden we heard someone yell "Mrs. Drummond!" and then a young woman ran over to my mom and wrapped her in a bear hug.  Before long they both were smiling through tears, having a very animated conversation, while the woman's husband stood by, smiling along with them.

My Sweet Baboo and I walked away for a bit, bought our grand prize tickets, and sort of stood back and watched the conversation. Turns out, the woman was in Mom's next-to-last class, back in 1985. Her husband (also a child of a teacher), said that the only teacher his wife ever mentions, the one she remembers, is my mom.

When I see the teacher-bashing which seems so prevalent here, where the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) is undergoing more than its share of struggles,

  • I wish that students and parents would stand up - boldly, loudly, proudly - and support the great teachers that have impacted their families
  • I wish that administrators, and yes, the President, would stand up in support of the power of a good teacher, not just in the power of education.
  • I wish that people understood that a long teaching career is not necessarily a bad thing, any more than it is in most other professions

I wish these things because in the last year or so, I've seen the impact my mom had on students from her first class, and a generation or so later, from a class at the end of her career. And because I know she's not alone.

There are thousands of great teachers out there, who have made a similar lasting impression on their students. They're here in the SCSD, they are in your district, they're everywhere.

They deserve our support, not our disdain.