I believe that teaching is a calling. No ordinary person wakes up one day and says that they want to teach a classroom full of 4 year olds! This path is driven by passion and paved with fortitude. The desire to assist a child in the discovery and readiness for the life that lies ahead outweighs the instinct that most of us have, which is run for the hills!
In my discussions with various teachers, from preschool teachers to high school teachers, I find that there is a commonalty that occurred in the personal life of the teacher that led them to choose this personally rewarding, but sometimes “thankless” job. That variable is the positive influence that a teacher or educator had on their own lives while growing up.
In my last blog article “The Story of Preschool Director”, I mentioned that I came from a long family line of educators. One of those individuals is my father who taught junior high math and high school math, and then went on to become a professor at our local state college, and subsequently retired as a professor emeritus.
When I was a little girl the days off for the primary schools fell on different days than the secondary schools. Since I came from a family with two working parents, I would sometimes have the opportunity of going to school with my father. What an adventure, getting to go to school with all the big kids! I would bring my Wonder Woman backpack filled with activities and my Cabbage Patch lunch box filled with a healthy meal and snacks. I got to choose wherever I wanted to sit. At the end of each class period I would move to a different desk. I was so happy and proud to go to the big kids' school with my father, even if it was for just that one day. As I settled in with my coloring books, colored pencils (I had graduated from crayons), stickers, and comic books, I was all set to ride out the day just like the all-knowing and adult-like junior- high students.
On those special days, I got to see my father in a different light than I think most people did. I saw that he treated all the students with respect regardless of their educational background, and they respected him in return. He made it clear in the classes that he expected nothing but serious learning. It was as though he was a father or big brother to all of his students and watching him teach I came to the conclusion that I was OK with sharing “My Daddy”.
He taught math and science, often littered with jokes that only a junior-high mind would get. Every class would get a different joke, and looking back I did not know how he did it but he did every day for 10 years, then on for another 25 years in different levels of academia. He did all this with that passion to teach that is calming and patient akin to a gardener who tends to plants. He can see the end result of a solid fully grown tree whereas the sapling is just conscious of the momentary season.
I asked him one day how he got into teaching and he started to describe how poor our family had been when he was child. This was the first time that he told me of any hardships that he had experienced as a child; food and clothing where scarce. My father went on to describe how he would “escape” the hardships of his childhood by spending endless hours in the local library. The librarian saw this and would suggest books for my father to read. He spent those many hours poring over these books. I believe that this was the first sense of freedom and relief that my father felt from a chaotic home life.The seed of intrigue had been planted within and it then flowered into big dreams realized and new opportunities unveiled. My father not only became the first person on his side of the family to go to college, he went on to get his Master’s and Doctorate degrees. He believed that anyone could accomplish what they set out to do, no matter what their background. My father was determined to show children and young adults the wonders of math and science. Wherever we'd go in our city, we would run into his former students. (I still do and even in different cities! 35 years is a lot of students - I lost count after over 10,000!) Now, many of them are adults with their own lives and families, he'd ask them to call him by his first name, but even after this instruction they still called him “Dr. Barrick”. This was usually said with much fondness and great respect.
As you are reading this, you may be a teacher, an educator, or even a librarian with a child spending countless hours poring over books. Thank you for getting up every day to cultivate the seeds of knowledge in the lives of every student you encounter. You never know what winds of positive change will occur with a simple comment such as, “I think you might like this book.”
To show our appreciation to teachers, Discount School Supply® is having a promotion that encourages you to nominate a teacher who has inspired you, who will have the chance to win a $100 Gift Card. Click here for the entry form and to find additional information.
Thank you. We appreciate all that you do.
Olivia A. Barrick, M.S. in Human Services
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