Friday, September 19, 2008

UNTIL THE BELL RINGS by Thomas Lane Butts

When I was young, school started in mid-September. We had to get the cotton picked before we started school. But, here we are a month into another school year. Vacation-worn parents are probably glad!

The certifiable heros in our social structure are the teachers. As a profession, they are over-worked, often under-paid, and under-appreciated. They are the stop-gap against ignorance and the second most prominent source for teaching civility in a society where civility is sorely needed and often missing.

When you take your child to school, tip your hat to the teacher, and say an encouraging word. They are the best friends in your child's future. Whatever we accomplish in life we owe to a long line of teachers whose lives and lessons have influenced us.

In some cases, we may have forgotten the lessons, but seldom do we forget those who taught the lessons.

Many people mistakenly think that the yardstick for measuring good teaching and good learning is the extent to which a student can remember the details of content. The teachers who helped me most are those who taught me how to think and made me want to learn. Most of us remember very little detail from our education, but we remember principles and process and people. Every time I write (and try to punctuate) a complicated sentence, I see my high school English teacher, Miss Annie Hagood, standing at the blackboard diagraming that sentence.

My high school experience ended 60 years ago, and the dear lady who taught me is long since dead, but as long as I write and speak the English language, she will be alive.

When I was in the tenth grade, the wife of the principal of our high school informed her husband that she would like to teach Latin. He told her that it was not likely that rural children would be interested in Latin. This self-willed, white-haired lady informed her husband that if he would approve the class she would recruit the students. The next day, during recess, Mrs. Weathers walked across the playground and drafted nine students for her Latin class. Only after I was a grown man did I understand why I was selected. (Certainly not for my academic excellence!)

Today, when I am able to understand some strange words of Latin derivation, I always remember how this beautiful white-haired lady would shake me by the hair of my head and say: "Now conjugate that verb again and see if you can get it right". I know that you don't teach school like that anymore, but you can teach almost any way you want to teach if your lessons are laced with love.

Teaching has always been the profession from which all other professions emerge. Whatever you do, somebody taught you to do it. Members of every profession must pass through the hands of teachers. We very subtly move from the role of student to the role of teacher in life. All of us are teaching something, every day: from simple addition to calculus, from skipping rope to brain surgery, and from learning to live in a family to learning to live in a world.

Life is a classroom. We are all being taught, and we are all teachers - until the bell rings.

AN ENCOURAGING WORD written, 2008, by Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First Methodist Church

No comments: