I was among the few hundred that stood in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum to receive a high school diploma in June 2017. The graduation rehearsal was earlier the same day at 8:30 a.m. and the same few hundred seniors were mingling about the vast open space inside the coliseum in North Portland. It was clearly a juxtaposition to how quickly the coliseum filled up later that night.
As time approached, my parents drove me to the commencement ceremony. There was absolutely nowhere to park, but that’s expected. I had rehearsed earlier the process of receiving the diploma and getting your picture taken shaking hands with the principal and everything went relatively routine. I just hadn’t expected every single teacher to be lined up aside the rows of chairs to shake hands with the graduating students.
Let it be known for the record that I left the commencement ceremony immediately after getting my diploma as I had better things to do on my graduation night than listen to each valedictorian speech. Sorry, Franklin High School.
I got my name called, walked up the steps, and shook the hands that needed to be shook, being photographed several times throughout this entire process. As I walked down the steps with my diploma, I looked for exits to leave without being seen by thousands of people. I was immediately accosted to mingle with the rest of the teachers before returning to my seat (in my case, leaving the building with my parents).
I saw my history teacher, sophomore art teacher, geometry teacher and I shook their hands only happy I wouldn’t see them ever again. I then thought of the teachers I would miss and became a little bit sad. I shook hands with every single teacher there that night but I hugged only two.
My journalism teacher and my English teacher. I knew that those two ladies had taught me the most valuable skills I learned throughout all of high school and that was undebatable. A feeling of utmost gratefulness passed through me as my last encounter with Elizabeth Kirsch and Ellie Wilder was over.
The graceful selflessness they had shown me for two years was finally put into perspective and I had come to realize that I never appreciated it enough.
So that made me ask the question, what does it take to be a teacher and what exactly does it mean to have that position? The answer just might surprise you.
“To be a teacher means to aggressively and persistently work against systems that disadvantage certain people. It means to show compassion, to remember that everyone has a story. It means to encourage rigor and engagement. It means to hold people to a high standard, intellectually, socially, behaviorally. It means never getting any sleep and being constantly undervalued by society,” said Elizabeth Kirsch, the first person to teach me what journalism is.
In today’s society, most students from elementary to high school develop a belief that they’re not performing well in a class because the teacher is rude, boring or just simply ineffective.
You know, when you thought you were just going to fail your freshman algebra class because your teacher is a grouch, only to find out that you have a 40 percent just because you don’t like waking up at 7:30 in the morning to do quadratics. Do you think anybody else did either?
Sure, you can just write the teacher off as a “bad teacher,” but in the end, you still fail the class and you hate your math teacher.
Kirsch offers an insightful perspective on how we should get past this vicarious cycle:
“I think there are ‘bad teachers’ in the sense that there are ‘bad’ anything, but I also believe that rather than assigning a ‘bad’ label to people, we should instead work to provide the systems and supports that will allow them to grow and be good at their jobs.”
School can be a rough time for many individuals. While some are worried about not being liked or talented, they also have to balance school work on top of that. At the end of the day, teachers are there to support students. Teachers reject no student and accept everyone they’re assigned. Any person that possesses these admirable qualities deserves to be appreciated every time they walk through the classroom doors.