My friend Caryl is a teacher. She taught first grade for several years, and first grade has been her passion, because first grade is when chilluns generally get their reading chops, and she has a Master’s degree in literacy. She was Joey’s first grade teacher three years ago, and Annabelle and Daisy’s first grade teacher last year. But then the powers-that-be decided to do a big teacher shuffle, and so this year Caryl is teaching a second-third grade combo. Lucky for us, that means she’s once again Annabelle and Daisy’s teacher. Not so lucky for Caryl, though, as it means she’s teaching two different curriculums.
I have to say that before I got to know Caryl, I never really got to know any of my kids’ teachers very well, and I certainly had no idea just how hard teachers work. I think on some level, I figured that certain people decided to become teachers because of the cushy hours – you know, working 8:00 to 3:00, and all those days off – a week off in the spring, two weeks off in the winter, not to mention three whole months off during the summer! Sheesh, who could ask for a better deal?
Now I know the truth. Now I know that during the school year, Caryl doesn’t go home when the kids go home. She stays there at school for a few more hours usually, and then takes work home with her as well – grading papers, preparing lesson plans and the like. She arrives at school an hour or two before the kids arrive in the morning to get everything ready for the day ahead. She willingly keeps kids in her classroom after school – including her former students – to help with homework and give pep talks. Not to mention summer – she’s working full days weeks before the kids return to school, getting the classroom and lesson plans and schedules ready. And I’ll never forget last year when Daisy was sick for a week, too sick to go to school, and Caryl came to the house just to go over lessons with Daisy so she wouldn’t fall too far behind. She’s often in attendance at a student’s (or former student’s) birthday party or Little League game. She’s utterly dedicated. She commands the respect of the kids in her class, but she’s always there with a loving hug.
This afternoon Annabelle had to stay after school and redo her homework for the week, because she didn’t do her Personal Best (Personal Best is probably the number one value Caryl tries to instill in her students). When I finally went to pick Annabelle up, the school had mostly emptied out. I asked Caryl if she’d be on her way home now, and she said no, she’d likely be there until 7:30 or so tonight. Friday afternoon, you’d think she’d have a fire under her to get out and shake off the week, but no, she still had work to do. And she’ll be in over the weekend, too.
I am humbled by and thankful for her devotion and hard work.