For the past several weeks, I have been interviewing the new staff in the Redwood Area School District. I enjoy the chance to get to know them and to learn about their past and what led them to make the decision to get involved in the world of education.
Each of their stories is different, but the one thing they share is that passion for what they do. I have been doing these interviews for more than two decades, and I can say those teachers I have met have that one thing in common. They want to make a difference.
A few years ago former Redwood Gazette publisher Pat Schmidt wrote a column that was published during the annual Education Minnesota conference break. In those days the transition was taking place between calling it the MEA break in reference to the Minnesota Education Association and Education Minnesota.
Of course, being Minnesotans, we are not ones to change quickly, as I still hear plenty of people, even kids who never experienced it, calling the two days away from school each October the “MEA break.”
In that piece Pat included a story he had received from another editor who had received it via e-mail. The piece was dropped off a few weeks ago in my office by Kaye Norman, who informed me she had found it while going through some of the files of her husband, David Norman, a former Redwood Falls educator.
Apparently it was a piece he felt was important, and I agree with Kaye that it was worth printing again.
It is entitled “What Teachers Make,” and I have found similar stories online, as well as a piece by a former New York teacher turned poet named Taylor Mali.
“What teachers make”
The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.
One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, “What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”
He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers. “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach,” he said. To stress his point he said to another guest; “You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?”
Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, “You want to know what I make? (She paused for a second, and then began…)
“Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for five without an iPod, Game Cube or movie rental.
“You want to know what I make? (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.) I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.
“I teach them to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn’t everything. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math. They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator. I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity. I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.
“I make my students stand, placing their hand over the heart, to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. One nation under God, because we live in the United States of America.
“Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.”
(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)
“Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention. because they are ignorant. You want to know what I make? “I MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
“What do you make Mr. CEO?”
His jaw dropped, he went silent.
Thank you, teachers, for making a difference.