“It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need, and our air force has to have a bake-sale to buy a bomber.” – Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
National Teacher’s Day falls on May 6th this year. It is celebrated annually on the Tuesday of the first full week of May as part of Teacher Appreciation Week. I suspect that National Teacher’s Day is another of those observances that the majority of the population may not be familiar with, much like Doctor’s Day, Nurse’s Day, and other similar days devoted to acknowledging/celebrating members of a given profession. I believe that it is a day worth acknowledging however, as teachers play such a crucial role in our society.
You may question my choice of the term “crucial” but I will explain why I believe this to be true. With the exception of a very small minority of home schooled children, it is fair to say that a teacher taught most of us how to read. A teacher taught us how to write, how to communicate, how to add & subtract, how to tell time and many other necessary basic skills. Had we not learned these skills every day simple chores such as grocery shopping, paying bills, and simply driving or commuting to and from work would be a nightmare.
Had it been left to my parents to teach me these basic life skills who knows if I would even be sitting at my computer typing this today! On one side of my family my grandparents were immigrants who were struggling to learn how to speak and read a new language themselves without any formal instruction. On the other side of my family my grandfather was illiterate and could neither read nor write anything beyond his own name. Both sets of my grandparents, as well as my parents, were far too busy working (often multiple jobs) just to feed their families. There was no time for teaching their children how to read or write – just how to survive. The finer points of education were left up to our teachers and this situation was hardly unique to just my family, I’m sure.
Teachers do so much more than just teach students how to read and write – they also socialize children and help them to become fully functional members of society. As the author Robert Fulghum so poignantly points out in his best selling 1989 book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, it is often teachers who teach children to share, to take turns, not to take things that belong to others, to put things back where they found them, and, in his words, “[p]lay fair. Don’t hit people. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.” Teachers reinforce the morals, customs and mores parents teach their children at home and fill in the gaps that parents miss. They educate, yes, but they also encourage, nurture and support the next generation to reach their full potential as human beings.