We need to celebrate teachers

2 years ago

It is one of the last spring flowers to bloom. Driving along a street in the Star City or its environs, these “blossoms” can be seen. Closer inspection reveals a message of accomplishment: a young person has passed a milestone and is moving on to a new adventure in learning to live in the future.  

Congratulations to all the graduates who are moving to the next stage in their lives.

My first time teaching in China introduced a novel idea. On Sept. 10 every year, a national holiday honors teachers. Teachers are taken to dinner, given toasts and cheers for the work that they do. In a regimented, enforced structure under communism’s concept of all workers are one, the notion of singling out teachers seems at odds with the philosophy. What makes teachers so special that a communist country would give them their own holiday?

Education has been a hallmark of the Chinese social system for 5,000 years. At the end of the last Chinese empire, pictures showed male students in tiny tents who were preparing for their exams. To gain the security of a permanent job, income and prestige, students were expected to be scholars and know the intricacies of ancient texts. Such rigidity in thought led to other problems, but it was a way to build a civil service that could make the burdensome government operate. Sounds familiar.

Teachers should be celebrated. One hundred years ago many states funded normal universities and colleges. One may wonder about the silliness of the name. Are there abnormal colleges? No. Normal schools were to educate teachers in how to teach the norms of society. 

Early in the history of the United States of America, there was great focus on teaching students how to be proper citizens in this great country. Learn to read, to write, and to compute so that one builds a better society. These normal schools were to teach the norms of a new society and a better future.  

Today, teachers and our schools are entrusted with a sacred duty: to build the toolbox that our children will need for a world that is unknown. Our teachers bring students into the fascinating world of reading, writing and science. Gone are the days when teachers had only to teach the rules of proper language use and adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. Now they must also incorporate an understanding of the changing natural and social environment. 

It is within our schools that students learn to understand, assess, and move forward into a world that is unknown. Forty years ago, we did not have texting, a phone and a computer in the palm of the hand, or power from sunshine. What we had were tools to understand this new world and to make it just a bit better. Our teachers gave us the tools and we should honor them for such a gracious gift.

Two dear teachers I knew have passed in recent weeks: Mrs. Mullens, who made hand-drawn pictures of how helping verbs worked and taught third grade, and Mrs. Griffin, the school secretary, who could organize a field trip, manage a principal’s schedule and still have time to soothe a skinned knee or broken arm. At Zippel Elementary Mrs. Griffin was the super teacher to countless students. They made the school a warm, welcoming and safe place. One did not dare make them cross. 

Today, there are countless more teachers who work to bring out the best of ideas, to show students the possibilities and future that await them; who offer succor and comfort when the world seems cruel and unkind. They are called upon to help make the world a better place. These hardworking heroes deserve a full holiday to celebrate their efforts. 

Take a moment. Write a note, make a phone call, and just say thank you for a job done well. These are the few, the proud and the strong who make the world a little bit better. Thank you.

Orpheus Allison is a photojournalist living in The County who graduated from UMPI and earned a master of liberal arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He began his journalism career at WAGM television, later working in many different areas of the US. After 20 years of television he changed careers and taught in China and Korea.