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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Becoming a Wealthy Teacher (Dear Katie V1 #9)

"He laughs in our times of joy, encourages us in our times of doubt, and always has a story to tell.  From simulations of war, to video skits, to globe ball geography...this teacher will be remembered for his complete commitment to our class and his evident desire to see us grow and mature as fully as possible."

Dear Katie,

The above sentence is a quote from the greatest award I ever received for teaching, the yearbook dedication from the Class of 1999 at Christian Heritage School, in Trumbull, CT where I first began teaching.

I was compelled to pull out the yearbook and read the dedication again due to a happy circumstance.  I had mentioned the historical video skits I assigned to this class in a Facebook post and one of the students dug up an old video from his parents' basement and posted it on his page.

Seeing those kids at 16, and realizing they are all double that age today, brought tears to my eyes.  They were great kids, and as each one made their appearance on the film, memories flowed through my mind of specific events about each.

The boy who found the video needed a pair of sneakers one day for gym.  Since I coached, I had a pair under my desk that I offered to him, but he couldn't wear them.  They were too small.  He was in 7th grade at the time.  (I wear 10 1/2's, I believe he wore a 16 by senior year in high school).

The boy who played "Napoleon" was one of my best baseball players and captains of the team and  I still remember a great talk we had while fishing for bass on the lake in my old backyard.

And several of the girls in the video would remind me to treat my newlywed wife (your aunt) with respect since they had me for several years as a classroom teacher and knew the unsmiling ogre I could be.

And 11 minutes later, it was over.  After watching it I wished I could have just one more class period with those kids.  But that's life, we had a season together, but life moves on.

You see, I love history, and I love teaching it...

But I have a passion for kids.

What I appreciate most is the second part of what was quoted above.  It was obvious to the student(s) who wrote the dedication that my teaching methods were to instill something more important in them, growth and maturity.  Games and video skits were to reach them at their level, to move them beyond that level, and hopefully help create deep thinkers who can express their thoughts to the world.

You are never becoming rich as a teacher, at least how the world sees wealth.  (You probably knew that since you have been to the old farmhouse your aunt, cousins, and I live in). Your wealth will come in the number of students you impacted.  Your investment statement might be displayed on the pages of Facebook, as you see the kids you taught graduate college, begin careers, and then start families of their own.

You will cheer with their successes and mourn in their losses.

You will do this because you will care for them.  They have inherent value because they are human beings created in the image of God, not as a student ID number on a grading program or based on the utilitarian view of how they are useful to you.

I can not promise you a high paying career as a teacher, but I can promise you a treasure chest full of memories...and some may have a digital footprint, like a class history video on Napoleon, where Napoleon has a top cabinet meeting while lounging in a hot tub and has a clown crash his funeral.

And I cannot promise dividends on your investment in the classroom, but sometimes they come...

One day, your grandfather and brother came up to watch a baseball game I was coaching.  We went out to the diner after the game when a young man walked out as we walked in.  It turned out to be a former student of mine from 6 years earlier.  We talked for a few minutes about the college he attended and what he was studying, and as we said good-bye, he turned to your grandfather and said,

"I want you to know, your son was one of the best teachers I ever had."

A student saying that to you is comparable to receiving an amazing tip as a waiter.

A student saying that to one of your parents, whose hard work molded you into the man and teacher who stood in front of that student's classroom, now that's priceless.

Like I said, a treasure chest of memories...

Prepare yourself, teaching will make you a very wealthy woman!

Just My Opinion,

Uncle Kevin

PS The house on the lake was an above ground basement apartment we rented from the home owner at an unbelievably low price.  So I wasn't worldly wealthy to afford a house on lake, especially from the salary I was pulling at a private school.








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