Tuesday, May 21, 2013

For Teachers Who Care for America's Children

When I taught middle school, we did the iconic tornado drills regularly. Always one student asked me, "Mrs. Tatum, why don't you have to 'tuck and duck' against the wall with the rest of us?" My response was always the same, "My job is to give my life for you." All of my students were amazed by my response. They'd say things like, "You're supposed to die?" I'd say, "If necessary, yes."

In watching the Oklahoma tornado coverage, story after story concerns teachers who saved the lives of the children by their quick thinking and self-sacrifice. The Sandy Hook Elementary teachers did the same when the unthinkable occurred. Six teachers died preserving the lives of students.

Teachers practice drills for fire, tornado, shooters, and more. They talk about how best to protect children. While teachers are under fire concerning standardized testing, teachers have also taken on the most difficult job - not only teaching, but loving, protecting, reassuring, feeding, clothing, and looking out for our nation's children.

Teachers are not paid what they are worth to our society, partly due to the fact that teachers don't go into teaching to make money. Yes, they want to make a living doing something worthwhile. But they are all there to care for kids. The ones with no home, ones who are abused, ones who have parents in jail, hospital, or gone, and ones who may have every material comfort but no adult who cares for their emotional well-being. Teachers take the hands of children, some unlovable, hug and comfort children, some lacking good hygiene, and yes even teach them to punctuate sentences and work mathematical problems, even though some face serious learning disabilities.

I grew up in St. Louis County and experienced my share of tornadoes. I never said, "My job is to die for you, if necessary" lightly. Rather, I knew that God had called me and my fellow teachers to stand in the gap for my students, day in and day out, in whatever drama the day may hold. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 NIV) Teachers emulate the love of Christ everyday with their children.