The Heart of Teaching

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Imagine that your spouse comes home late from work one evening carrying a large shopping bag in each hand.

Sitting in the kitchen, you peer at the bags and notice they’re full of disposable napkins. You take another bite of your dinner as your mind tries to run through a few plausible scenarios in which you would need two full bags of napkins. None of them make much sense.

With a furrow on your brow, you ask, “Why did you buy those? We have plenty at home.”

“Oh, these aren’t for us. They’re for the restaurant.” Your spouse puts the bags down and unties their shoes. They come over to sit across from you at your kitchen table.

You stare incredulously at the bags as disbelief boils into displeasure.

“You mean you bought those for work? You’re a waiter! Why are you spending money on work? That’s the owner’s job.”

Your spouse shrugs sheepishly.

“I know… but there just isn’t enough money to afford napkins for every patron that comes into the restaurant.” They reach across the table to place their hand on yours, which you now realized has been clenched into a fist.

This isn’t the first time your spouse has been spending their personal income — your family income — on items for work. At first, it was just a few dollars here and there: some extra take-out forks, a new light bulb for in the dining lounge, a vase to replace one that a patron had cracked… but this was becoming a serious expense of both time and money.

With a deep breath you try to remain calm, “Listen, you are being paid to do your job. You are not getting reimbursed for all of these purchases. You know that. Why do you continue to spend so much of your paycheque to make your workplace “better”? Is it really necessary for you to care so much about those customers? We have our own family to take care of, let the customers bring in their own napkins if they really need them!”

You sigh in exasperation because you’ve had this talk before. You know your spouse just “cares too much” about the customers to simply let them eat their food at face value. Your spouse is one of those workers who try too hard for too little recognition. The customers in the restaurant absolutely love them for that. They never truly realize how lucky they were to have a waiter like your spouse, at least not until they start to have their own customers.

It is only then that they will see how much effort waiters put into their work to make every day run smoothly; Only then will they stop to think “Hey, I was really lucky to have had a waiter like that.”

Only then will they realize that your spouse was one of many waiters who put their heart and soul into their job to make their customers feel that all their needs had been met.

…You’re probably thinking that this is an insane amount of effort for a waiter to put into their job. However, teachers put an incredible amount of time, effort, and money into their jobs in ways that would be unprecedented for the front-line staff of many other industries.

Some teachers will work themselves and their paycheques to the dust to give their students the greatest educational experience. Not all teachers will do this, but you’ll never know whether your past teachers or your children’s teachers fall into this category of self-sacrificing professionals.

The least you can do is thank them anyways. Congratulations on another completed school year, teachers.

You deserve it.

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