American Education Week amplifies education's importance

Being a teacher has never been a job for me but always a position. Right behind the preacher or the doctor, a teacher has the most important job in any community. Day in and out, teaching may be the most essential because all occupations are built upon lessons learned. Naturally, the most significant teachers are the parents. Their impact cannot be overestimated and the numbers point to that directly.

For example, I have always taught on a rule of “thirds.” A child (whatever grade) is a third. The parent is a third. The teacher is a third. If all three do an effective job, the student will be a success. If any one of those thirds fail, the child is likely to do the same. Broken homes are often an indicator of real problems and so many of the children who do not make the honor roll or graduate or go on to success later in life have had the misfortune to be caught in that situation. When a child’s last name and the mother’s last name and the father’s last name are not the same, there is virtually always cause for concern. Thankfully, despite the problems, the boy or girl usually manages to survive and prosper.

Another number to illustrate the importance of parents in education is the number of hours in a week. It is 168, in case you might have forgotten. If a child is in a classroom an average of an hour per day Monday through Friday that equals almost exactly three percent of the time in a week. If a high school child has six classes the overall total is about 18 percent. So, during any given week, that child is somewhere besides my room 97 percent of the time and away from school, period, more than 80 percent of the week, including weekends.

So, during American Education Week, teachers at home and at school deserved to recognized for the jobs they do.

Almost without exception for more than 40 years, I have looked forward every day to going to school. Now comes another special week for educators and a message in our file from Mercer County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Deborah Akers. In this most difficult time of pandemic and sometimes just plain panic in communities from coast to coast, it is not always easy to be upbeat and inspiring but “the Super” has once again found a way to give us a better feeling than we had before.

Consider this: usually during American Education Week, a time when normally here at Bluefield High School we would be hosting our annual Hall of Fame ceremony, we are on a blended schedule and simply trying hard just to keep a somewhat stable lesson presentation with the primary focus of staying healthy. Young people of all ages including big, strong football players and little freshman who sometimes look as if they belong back at the intermediate school, are as concerned as we are even though in typical teenage fashion, most of them do not want to let that show.

Still, we understand each in our way how important education is. Shakespeare matters but so does welding. Quadratic equations are relevant and so the exercise in phys ed. classes. From the art room and the music rooms – never underestimate how valuable the arts are to making our world more fun to live in! – to the history and science classes which help us to understand where we have been, where we are going and how to effectively deal with the forces around and within us, there is no part of education which does not impact the future, which is to say, the children.

“Education” has a couple of meanings, as the message says. One is “to teach” and the other is “to draw out or lead.” Teachers make all other work possible.

Part of being a teacher is the sacrifice and that starts by taking four or more years to get the proper training. Securing that training is not easy and it is not cheap. Being a teacher often means paying for training while many of the people in the same age group are getting jobs and being paid. They might make $80,000 while the future teacher spends that much to earn a diploma.

So be it. A teacher often begins the job in financial debt which takes years to pay off and they knew that going in. He or she invests much, and if it is true that in any job one receives from it in proportion to what is put in, then the reward is great. What price can be put on “you helped me so much” or “you gave the confidence I needed to do the job I have now” from students in those classrooms?

Of course, the cherry on top of the educational sundae is when a child taught goes on to become an educator. No higher honor or greater reward for a lifetime spent with chalk dust or computer keyboards!

I will never be a teacher of the month or teacher of the year but I did not get into the profession to earn that. My job, like nearly all the teachers I have ever worked with, is to make magic with that three percent of time I have been given with your child.

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Bluefield High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist. Contact him at larryhypes52@gmail.com

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