My great grandparents worked in the mills in their small southern town. Neither of them made it out of elementary school. GL and Sylvie Faulkner had very little in the way of fancy, nice things. Depression glass and china purchased with grocery store coupons and Coca-cola bottles returned to the store for a penny. They worked hard for what they had in that factory, earning titles as grand as “weaver” and “smash hand,” their jobs listed in the 1940 census.
Their daughter, my grandmother, completed an Associated Degree and spent her career teaching the female prisoners at Tutwiler Prison in Alabama, often buying them fruit and hygiene products even though she couldn’t pay her own electric bill.
The next generation, my mother, graduated with her bachelor’s degree, then her master’s, and then earned her National Teacher Certification. She taught in the Birmingham City school system for 25 years. One year, she worked hard to keep track of every receipt, every mile driven, every Christmas gift purchased, every pencil replaced, just to see if they could write some of it off on their taxes. But only that one year. Some things might be better not to know.
I broke with our family legacy and decided to marry a teacher instead of becoming one myself. I didn’t want to work that hard. And he does work really hard. Dr. Band Geek loves his students. Those hours he spends preparing for class, booking buses, planning shows, meeting with other departments. Every minute he is working for his students, to give them the best educational experience possible.
This time of year, when we shop for school supplies, kids pick out backpacks, and families squeeze in one more relaxing weekend by the pool or the lake, I can’t help but think about how far we have come in four generations.
From repairing yarn on a loom by hand in a hot, sticky factory with cotton fibers floating in the air, coating their lungs to trying to learn a new way of thinking about math my first grader brings home from her air-conditioned, clean, beautiful school building filled with teachers with years of educational experience. All in four small generations.
Education changed our entire family.
For younger generations to have any hope of accomplishing the same things in the next 50 years, they’ll need education just as badly. And they’ll need us to intentionally support their schools and their teachers.
But listen, I’m just an ordinary girl, living on a budget of less than a fast food meal for four in extra every month, and an introvert who prefers to help in small, personal ways. What can I really do?
Maybe you’re feeling that “ordinary girl” thing too. The idea of supporting teachers, providing them with the resources they need, and caring for the students who sit next to your kids every day, well, it’s just too big to conquer.
So these are just a few crazy simple, ordinary, everyday ideas for you to support and love on the extraordinary teachers in your community…
We all have to do it. Buy the school supplies, the tissues, the Clorox Wipes, the hard to find dry erase markers and buy them without the grumbling. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, we all wish it was provided. Yes, we would rather not be inconvenienced. But if you don’t buy, the teacher will and she’ll have to do it for her classes in addition to her own kids. Buy and buy with a smile.
Our elementary school teachers use Treasure Boxes as rewards. Do something well, pick a treat out of the Treasure Box. The Dollar Store, the Dollar Spot at Target, the party section at Walmart, all great locations for cheap, small trinkets kindergarteners will cherish. When you have some spare change or a couple of extra dollars, buy an item or two and send it to school.
Hey, I know. I’m a non-joiner myself. But the $10 dues I pay to the PTA goes towards good, good work. The least I can do is to donate a little money towards that work.
But if you can participate, do. Maybe the PTA isn’t your thing so be a Room Mom, offer to cut out laminated items for the classroom, sort and fold clothes at the school’s clothes closet. There are as many ways to volunteer as there are roles in the school. Find one you love and serve.
A candy bar, a pack of pre-sharpened pencils, a hand-written note, homemade cookies, flowers from your yard in your cleaned out marinara jar you would have just thrown away. Little, heartfelt, no-special-reason, thank you gifts tell your teacher you see her, you value him, and you are supporting their work.
People are listening to you. Especially your kids. If you are complaining about teachers, the administrators, or paying your taxes, your kids, anybody within earshot at the Starbucks, and friends reading your posts on social media, they hear you. Let’s be Romans 12:10 people. Honor others above ourselves, outdo each other in honor, allow our opinions to play second fiddle to the needs of the schools and students in our community.
We are all stretched incredibly thin. I get it. Sometimes we cannot give more money, more time, more energy but we can pray. In the car line, walking to the bus stop, as you’re packing your kids’ lunchboxes, or reading through their folders, pray. Bless them with your heart words for protection, provision, peace, and maybe some patience. Asking God to bless others is powerful.
For years, I watched my mother create and gather and build her classroom and career. Now I have the honor of watching my husband doing the exact same things. Teachers work incredibly hard and love our children incredibly well. And I can tell you, these little, ordinary acts of service and love to the extraordinary teachers in your life will leave a lasting impact.
I am so grateful for their hearts, their calling, and our Creator who gifted them with their abilities.