My baby boy is going to be a teacher. He is in his last year at Wichita State and will make someone a fine science teacher. He knows 10 times as much about good instructional strategies as I did at his age; what we know about good teaching now compared to 35 years ago is amazing. There will be struggles and challenges, but he is setting forth on a career that is inherently good, and more intrinsically rewarding than any other.
So when I think about American Education Week, I am reminded not just of all of the great educators I have known, but of all of the students. It is so much fun to run into kids who remember you and some small kindness you afforded them.
I have shared with my son that some kids never leave you. It might be the young man who loved to discuss politics and couldn’t wait to tell you about his greatest high school moment --- attending a Rush Limbaugh show.
It is also the kid who took a swing at you, and had to be taken from school in handcuffs. Ten years later, I went in to pay for my gas and that kid was working behind the counter. There was no avoiding him, but maybe he wouldn’t remember? Nope, he remembered, “Mr. Heim? Hey, you should know that I’m not an a-----e anymore.” Words I will never forget because of the pride with which he spoke them.
Then there are kids who haunt you. Ty, who I took home after he got in a fight, haunts me. His house was a hovel. His dad was passed out on the couch, guarded by a wolf-like creature. I took his advice and did not try to wake dad, because Ty let me know the beast was very protective. I put the suspension paperwork on the kitchen counter, and when I looked over to write a note, noticed the counter top was moving, covered with bugs.
When I think about American Education Week, I think about the joys of being an educator, which are great. I also think about the kids who we teach, the good and the bad. I am proud that my son wants to be a teacher because it is not for everybody, and it is not easy. Educators help all kids, and most of all the helpless kids. Educators deserve more than a week honoring them.