Well, it's official. I'm out of my mind. I know this because when asked to take on a speaking engagement the same day I was writing a three-hour exam, I said yes. But in my defense, you probably would have, too. Let me explain.
The group to which I'd be speaking was made up of school teachers. "Let's make sure I have this straight," I said. "There will be 40 or 50 teachers, expected to sit down and be quiet and listen while I talk?"
Well, who could resist?
So talk I did. I told them of my almost 80-year old mother, who quit school after Grade 9, got married, had five children, then continued her education until she could teach school, eventually earned two degrees and became a high school principal.
I told them how disillusioned and heartbroken I was when I learned my beloved first grade teacher, Mrs. Cooper, got paid to teach us and wasn't doing it just out of love.
I told how my two older sisters became teachers as well, how one of them was my Grade 5 teacher and how it was assumed I'd become a teacher too.
I told them of my pseudo-teaching opportunities that elevated teachers to my highest regard and convinced me I had NOT missed my calling.
We talked about the pursuit of dreams and using the gifts your Creator gave you and jazz like that. There's so much more I could have said. So today, with six weeks or so left in the school year, I offer to all teachers everywhere what I hope will be a little shot in the arm to see you through until the end of June.
I try to imagine where I would be today without you, Teacher. Reading and writing alone, these most precious of gifts, are more than enough to create a debt of gratitude. Through the written words of others I have seen parts of the world I'll never see with my eyes, been encouraged to pursue my dreams, and gained understanding for life and eternity. Through words I have written, others have found hope, laughter, encouragement, and sometimes a role on stage! None of this would be true without the miracle of education.
Without what you taught me, how would I balance my bank statement or pay my bills? Obtain a driver's license, a mortgage, a job? How would I know where my daughter is when she flies off to Europe or appreciate the rich history of our planet when I see a movie like The King's Speech?
More than all of that, though, I want to thank you for the tenacity and genuine care with which you serve your students. Tom Brokaw said, "It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference."
If you are a teacher who makes winners of ordinary people, who believes in your students and tugs or pushes in turn, I applaud you. Your influence goes farther than you know. Don't take it lightly.
And hang in there. Summer's coming.