From a Teacher-Kid to You

The first question I always get asked when people find out that my parents are teachers, is, “isn’t it weird seeing them at school all the time?” I laugh, shrug, and say, “no, it’s just how it’s always been.” If I’m being honest, I have never thought very hard about it. For as long as I’ve been attending school, I’ve seen my parents around during the day. I’ve gone to their classrooms in the morning, and I’ve gone home with them after school if I missed the bus. It really is just how it’s always been. Until recently, I had never truly considered how being a teacher-kid has made my life any different from that of my friends. Looking back, I’ve noticed that it makes my point of view unique because I can see the work that gets put into every class, and the time that they spend trying to help every student. I’m halfway through my experience in high school and lately, I’ve been reflecting on the past couple of years and the interactions I’ve had with teachers so far.

I’ve always really valued close relationships with my teachers, but the truth is when I was growing up it always felt like there was this huge space: a barrier put up between teacher and student, a wall that determined our strictly professional relationship, and gave no room for a personal connection. It often felt like they were hiding behind this brick wall, becoming nothing more than a teacher, and I nothing more than a student behind a desk. I would constantly struggle with trying to see who my teacher really was, and it made it hard for me to be excited about being at school and about learning. Having teachers for parents really changed that dynamic for me. They would invite their friends over for dinner, and suddenly my 4th-grade Math teacher would be sitting across from me in my kitchen. The interactions that I would have thanks to my parents meant that I could chip away at that wall and peer through the hole, no matter how small it was, and see who was really on the other side. It subtly made the interactions I had with my teachers more friendly and more positive.

At Graded, things are different. Different from the other schools I’ve ever been to. I have strong relationships with all of my teachers, and for once it’s not a result of their friendships with my parents. I’m even close with teachers who have never formally taught me, and because of that, I’ve noticed that my attitude towards school is completely different. I find myself looking forward to the week ahead rather than dreading getting up in the morning. Graded stands out from any other school I’ve been to because of its teachers. They tear down the wall right from the start by letting students see into their lives a little bit, and wanting in return to know about ours. These are the kind of teachers that strive to know and see me as more than the student that sits in their classroom. They show up to sports games, ask me about other classes and other activities. The teachers here get involved and bring such positive, fun attitudes to the school with things like the Graded Drum Crew, the teacher choir, lip-sync battles between departments, and the rap battles against students.

I’ve had teachers here who have inspired me. They have been real, genuine inspirations in my life like no other people have been. I’ve had teachers who have challenged my ways of thinking and shown me how to persevere. I’ve had teachers who have taught me respect, and how to work hard. Teachers who have taught me to love new subjects and others have opened my eyes to things I never thought I could be good at. There are teachers who aren’t my teachers but still engage me in conversations about the things I’m passionate about. Teachers at Graded have always gone out of their way to help me succeed, even if that means responding to my emails at one in the morning, or staying late after school to answer my questions or just to talk.

Now it’s our turn to go out of our way for them. Unlike some other schools around the world, Graded chooses to celebrate a Teacher Appreciation Week; a time in the second week of October where the staff is recognized and praised for what they do. It’s so easy to take what we have for granted, and I think it’s important we take the message of “remember to say thank you” to heart this week. Teachers might not always see or understand the impact they have, so this week let’s make sure they know. Send a letter, leave a post-it note on their desk, drop them a short email, or give a quick hug. A small thank you goes a long way and, whether they’re your teachers or not, it matters.