Michelle Martin

Thank a teacher

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

If you can read this, the saying goes, thank a teacher.

When I interviewed Andrew Arellano, he talked about how much it meant to him when former students would get in touch, years later, and tell him how much they learned in his class, and the ways it helped them make sense of the world and make their mark on it.

We talked a bit about how every student has at least one of those special teachers, the ones who inspired them to read, to learn, to think they could do something and be something. He was even able to give me news about one of mine, a reading and language arts teacher I had in seventh and eighth grade.

At some point after I graduated, she began teaching at Fenwick, where she taught one of Arellano’s daughters, and, he said, helped his daughter become a reader.

He gave me the last phone number and address he had for my former teacher, who retired a year or two ahead of him.

“You should give her a call,” he said. “I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.”

When I called the number, I didn’t get through. I’ll try writing a note, and maybe, even if she’s moved, it will get forwarded.

As we start this school year under very unusual circumstances, spare a thought for the teachers. For the ones who have been teaching for decades and thought they had it down, thought they had adjusted to new technology from smartboards to students submitting assignments through websites, and then suddenly had to pivot to teaching without even being in the same building as their students.

Spare a thought for the new teachers who are spending time learning their craft while teaching from home.

For all of the teachers who are teaching in person, wearing their masks and minding their distance.

All of them, I’m confident, will do their best under circumstances that are anything but ideal. I’m confident that this year, even with masks and face shields or computer screens, teachers will be forging relationships with students, offering them books students never would have thought to read, opening worlds of wonder as they teach about creation from the smallest cells to the largest galaxies, maybe even helping students see the beauty in the logic of math.

Those might be academic questions, but it’s also those teachers who show students that they are valued, and therefore valuable, and that they have gifts of value to offer the world.

In 20 years, or 30 or 40, our children will look at their children and say, “I remember the teacher who told me I could write,” or, “I remember the teacher who showed me how math could be fun.”

School is starting again, whether in classrooms or bedrooms or kitchens. Welcome back.



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