an open letter to teachers (past, present and future)
To all our teachers (past, present and future),
Thanks for choosing to be teachers. I know it must be a challenging task, particularly for those of you who work with children and young adults. When you’re working with young and impressionable minds, teaching is so much more than relaying information; it’s a grand performance and disciplinary task. Goodness knows a lot of the time it must seem like it’s not worth the effort. I know because I considered being a teacher and it cost me my last bit of sanity.
But some, actually most of us, appreciate your efforts, even if we’re not able to tell you so at the time. We appreciate the long hours you put into preparing lessons; the early mornings and late evenings. We appreciate the sweet euphemisms at the end of our atrocious essays and rejoice at every ‘well done’.
Last week, I was told my high school English teacher and debating coach, Mrs Twigg, passed away suddenly. I was struck with a real sadness. Not because she was part of the fabric of my life – I hadn’t seen her in nearly 10 years – but because a great deal of what she taught me still remains relevant to what I do. More than that, she was a genuinely nice person who invested in my education as well as the education of countless others and years on, I still appreciate that.
Until that moment I hadn’t really considered the long-term impact a great teacher has on our lives. I’d given even less thought to thanking them while I still had the chance.
It seems a lost opportunity that I never got to tell Mrs Twigg how useful English has proven to be. I personally haven’t utilised any of the mathematics I was taught after grade six but basic essay writing, the ability to formulate sentences, maintain arguments and do so convincingly, is the very foundation of what I do every single day.
Beyond even this, I feel teachers should know that the work they do is invaluable. After the years have passed we can look back and appreciate the dedication of a good teacher. A good teacher will ignite a passion in their students – a passion that lives long after the lesson is taught. A good teacher inspires the average student to be better and the good student to be greater.
There are those teachers who go above and beyond the curriculum; those who offer support and encouragement and invest in their students. Everybody has their favourite teacher and the reason we loved them is because they believed in us; they gently (and occasionally not so gently) pushed us beyond our comfort zones and into the realm of excellence. They’re the ones who knew we could do better and made us do it. They listened to our concerns, answered our questions and gave advice without invitation – not to be intrusive but to remind us of the bigger picture.
Teachers never cease being necessary, because we never stop learning, but school teachers are in quite a privileged position. They have the ability to work closely with the students they see every day and change the course of their lives. But like all privileges, it comes with a great responsibility and part of that responsibility is nurturing citizens who will make the world a better place.
We all know ‘children are our future’ logic tells us this, but how great our future is and how great the future of the individual child can, in part, be influenced by the calibre of the teacher.
So to all teachers who inspire and invoke passion, enthusiasm and excellence, thank you for doing your job with such commitment. I am certainly a better person for it.
And to Mrs Twigg, thank you for demanding the very best from your students and teaching us the beauty of language. May your soul rest in peace, as your legacy lives on.
Your students (past, present and future)