I visited my daughter’s school yesterday, although School doesn’t start for more than a week the lot was half-full. What’s going on? I wondered. Parking the car, I popped into the office to ask for directions. After a bit of helpful advice, I walked down the hall. The air was humid and thick – probably saved money by not running the AC during the summer break, I mused.
The smell triggered memories long forgotten. Dad was a teacher, and many times I helped him work on his room. During the school year, I would wake to the click tap of his typewriter as he prepared a lesson, a quiz, or perhaps a dreaded test. Dad would leave early, and return late, sometimes five or six. He stayed to help eager students or to supervise a student club, or a teacher’s committee. Never one to complain, after supper he’d grade papers. He would still be grading papers when I went to bed. It seemed Dad always had papers. Later I married a teacher and found that she had a similar workload. Teaching is definitely not an 8 to 5 job.
Breaking from my reverie, I walked a little faster, eager to see the teacher. Most rooms I passed were open, the lights on, and teachers busy getting ready. Interesting, I thought, None of these folks are on contract, this is their own time. In my small business, when my employees come in after hours, I have to pay overtime. Too bad teachers don’t get OT, I shrugged my shoulders. I wonder why?
Reaching the room, I looked up and down the hall. A relatively new building, it showed little wear and tear. Some of the bulletin boards were already decorated, ready for the new year. What a beautiful school, I thought, as I opened the door and stepped in.
Glancing around, I sighed. So this is where my baby girl will spend the next year.
It was a sight – desks stacked along the sides of the room, walls bare, boxes of books scattered hither and yon. In the far corner, the teacher was preoccupied with a bulletin board. She looked up and managed a tired smile.
“Thanks for coming,” she piped. “Sorry I had to call you, but you know how the kids are about Bob.”
“No problem. Why is the room such a mess?” I asked.
“It’s this way every year. They deep clean the carpets, so before we leave in the spring, we must stack the desks. When we return in the fall, they’re still stacked.”
I pitched in and helped her move the desks and set up the room. As we worked, I asked about her supplies. The school provides some, but often she spends her own money on decorations, books, and such, as do the other teachers. Curious, I asked about her work hours. To my surprise, I found that like Dad, she worked a lot of her own time.
“Most of us do,” she replied. “We couldn’t do a good job if we didn’t. We have to prepare lessons, grade projects, talk with parents and work on committees. ”
I shook my head amazed at the dedication. I frowned when I remembered that a starting teacher makes less than $36,000 a year – barely more than a $15/hr minimum wage.
The teacher thanked me for helping and returned to her decorating. Suddenly, she stepped back and studied the bulletin board.
“Do you think they’ll like it?” she asked.
I smiled, in her seventh year teaching; my daughter still gets excited about the start of school.
“Now where’s Bob?” she asked.
“Here he is,” I laughed, placing the potted cactus near the window.
Third-grade suits her; her grandpa would be proud. Come to think of it, so am I.
A big thank you to all our teachers, yours is the next generation.
Why we have a cactus named Bob is a story for another day.
David L Dahl.
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