In elementary school, I was always a bit slower than everyone else. I was the dopey kid who needed extra tutoring, a little more examples, and time to sit down and understand the material. This didn't stop with elementary school, and I carried this through middle and high-school.
Most teachers thought that there was something wrong with me, and felt that since I was so behind, I should be held back or sent to an academy that would cater to my special needs.
I knew that these teachers had no faith in me, and as a kid, I was influenced by their line of thinking. Why should I care to put in the effort when most of my own teachers don't care?
I see posts all over social media about how all teachers make a difference, and all teachers care, but growing older I understand how false that statement is.
For some, teaching is simply a nine to five. Despite teaching being something fundamentally important, it's not exempt from people disliking their job. After all, teachers are human, and they do put up with a substantial amount of stress.
In the fifth grade, it was nearly agreed upon for me to be held back and sent to a special academy, except for one teacher. Though I can't remember her name, I'll always remember her and how she stood up for me the entire year. She understood that my worth wasn't measured by my letter grade, and she understood that there was nothing wrong with me, I just needed a little extra time to understand. No student body moves at the same pace.
This pushed me to do not only my best, but restored faith in myself. I spent the rest of my time doing extra homework, being tutored in math and reading,. When the time came for fifth grade to come to a close, to the shock of all the teachers except one, I graduated at the top of my class.
The rest of my school years were filled with a lot of these teachers, other than the handful that kept on believing in me. When I entered middle school, I decided to join band to play the flute. I knew virtually nothing about playing an instrument, and I had no clue how to read notes, or how to play those notes. I didn't go to band-camp with my peers since I had moved an hour away, so when school started and everyone knew how to play, I felt lost.
At the end of sixth grade my teacher finally caught on that I couldn't read notes. I had been writing letters above the notes so I'd know what to play. So he sat me down, and made me learn them. He was patient, and he made sure that I memorized each note before moving on.
Middle school was no different from elementary. I was having trouble at home and it was showing through my grades. The only classes I excelled in were writing, band, and art. Most of the teachers thought I was going to be a hopeless case, but my band teacher never lost hope, always knowing that as a kid and a student, there was so much time for me to grow.
By the end of eighth grade, I had memorized hundreds of sheet music, and had been offered a position to play alongside the state's adult band. I was first chair the entire year, and had played in all-county and all-state band, which didn't seem like a big deal to me. I was just doing what I enjoyed.
When time came for eighth grade graduation, I was upset that I had put all my focus on band. Sure, I had played sports, but I wasn't the best at it. My grades weren't all impressive either, and I was sure I'd spend a whole hour watching everyone go up to get an award except for me.
Like I had figured, I spent the whole hour watching everyone go up more than once for their awards. My peer's were happy, and their parents were equally elated, gushing over their precious baby. My parents didn't even bother showing up because they felt the same as I did. What was the point on going to your kid's award ceremony, when your kid wouldn't get an award?
By the last award, I had zoned out and had wanted nothing more than to go home and cry over my failures. I listened to my band teacher talk about how he had been teaching this girl for three years, and how when she joined band, she didn't even know how to play or read notes. He spoke of how this girl was able to memorized sheet music just by looking over it, and how she was quite literally the worst band student to start out and finished as the best. Some part knew he was talking about me, my friends were looking in my direction, grinning, but I didn't want to get my hopes up.
When he called my name, I froze. I had zoned out, and when I looked around, everyone was staring at me. Some knowing, but most shocked and confused.
I couldn't have finished band in such a way without the help of my music teacher.
By high-school I knew these set of teachers would be no different. I knew not all of them would care, and there would probably be only a handful that thought I was worth their time. I was right.
When my senior year came and I was homeless, I was given a, "keep your problems separate from school," speech. When my music professor found out, she pulled me aside. I had her for a couple of classes, and she had always encouraged me to do my best. She was like me. She had never been that exceptional in grade school, only excelling in writing and art. She gave me extra work, and help me pull my grade up. It wasn't the best grade. In fact I passed the class with a C and graduated as the most below average student, but I was happy to pass.
They DO Matter
To this day, I carry those thoughts and sentiments of those teachers with me. Because of them, and because of their pushing, I was able to succeed, and learn from my mistakes.
All of the pushing I had received from those teachers pressed me to do much better as an adult. I went through college with a 4.0, and the confidence in believing in my abilities to do my best.
Sure, at times I was coddled, but that's the thing about being a kid. Kids don't know what direction to take, and without direction you end with students like me; a mess.
Caring can take many forms, and when I say caring I don't just mean the smiling, fun-loving, joking teacher or professor. This includes those who scold us when we're wrong because they care enough to correct unacceptable behavior and teach us right from wrong.
In a typical grade school, teachers spend about 6-8 hours with their students, maybe more if those students decide on taking extracurriculars, each day. Students will spend about 8-10 months simply being with their teachers. With the amount of time teachers and students spend together, it becomes obvious on who likes who, or the amount of effort put into teaching, or caring.
I felt like I was alone, but there are millions of kids out there lost, and confused. Maybe their home life isn't ideal, and school is the break they get from home. Maybe their friends keep them going, or maybe clubs keep them busy with what they love. Or maybe it's because of caring teachers.
The ones who guide us but at the same time let us figure things out on our own, so that kids are able to find themselves and believe in themselves more easily. The ones who believe in us despite other's (maybe) having a different view.
They give us tools that we need in life whether it be through education, kindness, or even a stern tone. Allowing us to grasp concepts we wouldn't have been able to grasp without proper guidance, and to carry what we learned with us as we age.
Of course, I'm not bashing all teachers saying most of them don't care, but there are a handful that go above and beyond simply teaching. Grade school teachers are an integral part of a kid's life, even college professors to adults. They're the adults they spend half of their time with next to their parents, or guardians. It's only natural that teachers have the ability to influence the way a child thinks.
Those who teach are given a special responsibility; children. So much time is spent between teacher and student, to the point where it feels as if those teachers are the parents at school, and those students are their children.
I've heard many stories of many teachers proclaiming their students make teaching worthwhile, and I can genuinely say the sentiment that students, even grown adults, hold certain teachers in a wonderful light for all they do, and have done.