Emotional Health

One Teacher Is All It Takes

One teacher is all it takes. Once the child absorbs the impact of that positive influence, he or she builds on it, learning to recognize helpful and concerned mentors in their environment and attach themselves to them. This finding defies everything that child psychologists predict: your parents and your main environment have the greatest influence on your development. But for some children, that’s just not true.

All children should have the chance to learn and flourish in this way. Teaching as a profession attracts bright and idealistic young people, but other talented college graduates are attracted to professions that provide more reasonable wages and respect. Programs like Teach For America have attempted to attract the best graduates to teaching, but many who go through the program wind up feeling discouraged and eventually leave teaching. The system as it is currently designed makes teaching effectively just too difficult for them.

The quality of our schools is an urgent issue, one that has been argued about and subject to frequent study. But progress has been slow and difficult. The landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education that ended segregation was handed down in 1954 and we still haven’t found an equitable way to address the education gap between whites and blacks, rich and poor. And study after study underlines that quality education is fundamental to a good life and a strong country.

Taking care of teachers, which means providing them with support, materials, and yes, safety, is one of the keys to bringing quality to our educational system. We may be at a moment in time when something might change: teachers are striking, but so are students. For the first time since the Viet Nam War protests students are taking to the streets demanding safety in schools. They are asking for change, and they are keeping education on the front pages.

Meanwhile, candidates are bringing schools to the agenda for the coming mid-term election. A recent surprise upset indicates that voters may respond well:

“Conor Lamb, the Pennsylvania Democrat, just won in a heavily Republican district by focusing relentlessly on his constituents, not Trump. Education was one of his themes. He told voters teachers didn’t receive the gratitude that he did for being a Marine.”

This week, let’s be grateful for teachers. Most schools will allow students to bring small gifts and cards during this period. Children should be encouraged to acknowledge their teachers in some way. The rest of us can stop and reflect on the ones we remember and value — maybe even write to them, if possible, or give a donation to the school. There are many teachers who ask for donations for classroom supplies at sites like GoFundMe.

Go ahead—make a teacher’s day, and you can help make a child’s life.

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  • Diane Dettmann May 4, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Dr. Ford thank you so much for this article about the value of education and the important role qualified teachers have in today’s classrooms in America. An effective teacher who is committed to her/his students is a huge factor in their success now and in the future. Teacher Appreciation Week gives parents, students and community leaders a perfect opportunity to recognize teachers for the positive impact they have on students and their families. I taught in the St. Paul Public Schools in Minnesota for my whole teaching career. I am now retired, but I kept many of the notes of appreciation parents sent me throughout the years and enjoy rereading them. I hope Women’s Voices For Change readers will share your Teacher Appreciation article with others.