It’s not really, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” Or, I should say that it goes much deeper than that.
It is, “If you can leave a note for your child that you’ve gone to the store and will be back shortly and they can read it and be comforted, thank a teacher.”
Or, “If you can write to your mother on a card nestled in the flowers you will have delivered, and she can read it and smile knowing you remembered her and that you love her, thank a teacher.”
Or, “If you can email your boss a heads up that your child has a concussion from a fall in a basketball game and you are headed to the emergency room to meet your spouse and hold your child’s hand while the doctor checks their brain function, thank a teacher.”
Public school teachers stitch society together.
A teacher is a public servant who takes every student who jumps off the bus, totters off the bus, carefully slips out of their grandpa’s truck, runs past the crossing guard or quietly approaches with their nose in a book and creates a society of equals.
Students become a throng of peers when they take their place in the classroom. They all have taxpayer-provided desks, in a taxpayer-provided room in a public school provided by… taxpayers. They congregate in a cafeteria, a playground or a hallway paid for by taxes but protected by their teacher so they can relax and create community. They exercise in a gym provided by their community, but they open up and learn because their teacher creates a culture of learners.
Their school is staffed with secretaries, custodians and administrators, who tell corny jokes, ask about their families and feed them something when they have forgotten their lunch. People who value children and the sacredness of learning. People who work in step with their teachers to catch students lest they fall.
It really isn’t, “If you can read this…”
It is: “If you have a place amongst equals, you have a sense of community in your city, town, neighborhood or workplace. If you feel as though you can speak up and represent yourself to your community or to your friends and feel safe. If you feel you have a right to exist and say what you think. If you feel you have a right to believe in a higher being or the Constitution or … not. Thank a teacher.”
Thank a teacher because they showed you in kindergarten, first-grade, and on through your senior year in high school, that a community can be made tight-knit and whole from a loosely banded group of people from various backgrounds, beliefs and experiences. A teacher created a place for you when you switched schools, towns, states, maybe even families, and made you whole within a new community.
So, you can read, and work, and respect others who were once complete strangers to you because a teacher taught you that you could.
Thank them for that.
— Shannon Dwyer, Soldotna