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My heroes


Ralph Thomas


  Most of us can name persons who, in our opinion, have done something outstanding and deserve to be called heros. At the very top of my list are those who have offered their lives in defense of our country, regardless of politics or rationality. Each of them, whether they found themselves in harm’s way or, by luck of the draw did not, were available if needed. In my mind all active and retired members of our military deserve to be called heros.

  But, I have other heros, also. They are those who serve and have served a vital part in our country’s past, present and future. They are those who are often criticized, belittled and blamed for things over which they have no control. These heros are teachers. Teachers, in my opinion, serve the most vital role in the lives of our children. We entrust them with our children’s futures and the future of our country.

  It is not uncommon to hear complaints about a particular school or teacher and sometimes the complaints are justified, but not often. I remember a saying from my childhood, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.” Teachers must work with what we send to them. There was a time when it was assumed children were taught the basics of human behavior before they started school. Don’t be rude to others, don’t take other people’s stuff,  don’t interrupt, be kind, work hard and always exhibit good behavior. Unfortunately, in many cases, our children are not taught these basics. I remember a teacher telling me that after months of communications with a child’s mother about the child’s rude behavior the mother finally agreed to meet with the teacher to discuss the matter. When the teacher calmly and gently presented the mother with the problem the mother replied, “That’s why I send her to school.”

  Somehow we have forgotten that proper behavior should be taught at home. No wonder teachers become discouraged. My parents instilled the idea in me that the teacher was always right, even if she was wrong  . . .  no argument  . . .  period. This was their way of preparing me for adulthood when I may occasionally have to do the bidding of someone even when I knew they were wrong. Now days, the teachers are put in the position of having to defend themselves even when a student acts inappropriately.

  Most teachers I know are fulfilling their calling. They feel privileged to play a positive part in a child’s future. Of course, like any profession, there are those  who are teaching by default, but they are few in number. Teachers today, are under terrific pressure to meet the administrative and bureaucratic demands of public education. Yet, they are not rewarded for the increase in their workload as a result of those demands. During difficult economic times school systems must make adjustments. Teachers who taught 115 students each day may now have to teach 135 students each day. This means an additional 20 test papers to grade, evaluation forms to complete and parents to communicate with. Yet, in Henry County, public school teachers have not had a salary raise in four years. In addition, the cost of their medical insurance has increased. Yet, they are expected to perform at higher standards than were required years ago. Is it any wonder that teachers are leaving the profession? Unfortunately, the teachers who can easily find other employment with higher pay and less work are the ones we can’t afford to lose.

  As the product of a somewhat dysfunctional family I struggled with a poor sense of self-worth up until the middle of the eight grade. It was then that a teacher called me aside and with one sentence changed my life. I am forever grateful to her though, if she were still living, I doubt she would remember me. But, she was fulfilling the calling of her profession. She was a teacher and is still my hero.          

  Ralph Thomas is a Locust Grove resident and the author of Doing Great, but Getting Better and Getting Old Can be Fun.




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