Working Hard to Guide Our Future
By Brad McEwen
Well here we are again, smack in the middle of one of my favorite times of the year.
Sure we’re still dealing with another scorching south Georgia August that threatens to liquefy you as soon as you step out the door, and the yes the days seem to drag on in an endless shimmering haze, but it’s also that magical time of year when an engine of excitement fires up at the McEwen house and the immediate future seems filled with endless possibility.
While most folks typically ponder themes of rebirth and renewal in late December, as we transition into a new calendar year, Clan McEwen is usually wrestling with those ideas every late July and early August as Tay and the kids head back to the school house where some of the most important activity in Albany is taking place.
I’ll freely admit that as the husband of a school teacher (and not just any teacher mind you but one of the those special educators who was designed by God for that very purpose) and the father of one elementary schooler and now one middle-schooler (man that happened way too fast), there might be a little bias in my assertion that the start of a new school year is one of the best times of the year, but in truth I felt that way long before I was blessed to have Tay, Milla and Bear in my life.
I concede that it was always hard as a youngster to say goodbye to the carefree days of summer and face the uncertainty that inevitably comes with the start of a new adventure, but there was always something amazing about the feeling I’d get while wondering what teachers I’d end with, or who might be in my class for the coming year.
It was a hard to match the anticipation—especially in elementary and middle school when you really were disconnected from your peers from June through August—of finally getting to hear all about what my buds had been doing during the long break and swapping stories about beach trips and sleep-away camps.
I simply couldn’t wait to get back in the groove of the school year and see what wonders the coming year would hold.
As cool as it was from a social standpoint, however, the true power of the annual return to school came from the understanding that I would be exposed to greater knowledge and that I’d get to learn new things—many of which I couldn’t even fathom.
I think I’ve maybe taken it for granted as I’ve gotten older—and the process of forgetting now outstrips the gathering of new data—that there was a time when the information I possessed was incredibly finite and things I’ve known for nearly as long as I can remember were actually alien concepts.
Even though I dread helping my kids with long division and some of the concepts related to physics or chemistry give me a headache, I’ve at least been aware that those things exist for decades. But once upon a time the idea that all matter was made of microscopic particles or that humans once believed the world was flat were complete unknowns.
They were things someone taught me.
Now I certainly didn’t learn all the awesome facts or stumble upon all those formerly mind-boggling concepts I’ve accumulated over the years in a classroom, but there’s absolutely no doubt that my thirst for knowledge, my desire to learn, has roots firmly planted in places like Oriole Beach Elementary or St. Teresa’s Catholic School.
Because of incredible educators like Ms. Shirley, Ms. Hudson, Ms. Parker, Ms. Gray, Ms. Gotsch and countless others, I’ve been exposed to myriad wonders. Because of their dedication and their earnest desire to challenge, excite and inspire me, I didn’t just learn my ABCs, or my 1,2,3s, I was given the tools I subsequently used to attend college, earn multiple degrees and find gainful employment.
Because of them I’d like to think that I’ve become a valuable member of society, doing my small part to make my community a better place and prepare a better world for my children.
There’s no telling the kind of person I might have become if those wonderful individuals who so enriched my life hadn’t cared so much, or had decided being a teacher was just too hard—that it just wasn’t worth it to put up with the long hours, the constant pressure, and the system politics for a pittance of a salary.
I often wonder what life would be like for my kids were it not for the guidance of the folks who have touched their lives and helped them on their journey so far, or what their future might look like in world without teachers committed to bringing out the best in every student they encounter.
For my money there are few professions as vital or as noble as teaching and having lived with someone who has devoted her life to doing whatever it takes to reach each and every child she encounters, I understand the real motivation and the hard work that goes into being an educator.
I’ve seen firsthand the personal time and money spent to make sure the students have the materials they need and that the classroom is inspiring and conducive to learning. I watched the tears flow when students are facing seemingly insurmountable challenges in the classroom and at home and their teacher feels powerless to make things better.
I’ve seen the sheer pleasure and unadulterated joy that teachers feel when a light bulb comes on and one of their charges has had a breakthrough.
While there’s no denying the happiness my wife and her peers experience when the school year comes to a close and they get a chance to relax and recharge, it pales in comparison to the feeling they get when a student succeeds and is ready to head to the next level.
That’s the result they strive for each and every day, often behind the scenes when they’ve got materials spread out on dining room tables or den floors at 9 or 10 at night, pouring over lesson plans and making sure they’re ready to meet the challenges of educating our children.
Now I know my wife will give me a hard time when she reads this and will tell me that what she does is no big deal or that I’m making too much out of it, but the simple fact is, this is one area in which she is wrong (and believe me there aren’t many).
What Tay and the rest of our educators do for a living is absolutely important—critical really.
With the new school year upon us, I think it’s an opportune time to think about the power of education and the crucial role our educators play—not just in the lives of the students but in the community as a whole.
As I ponder the future of Dougherty County, southwest Georgia and quite honestly the rest of the world, I see many issues that must be addressed and challenges to overcome, but I believe with all my heart there’s nothing that should demand our attention more than what’s going on in our classrooms.
People talk about the need for change, the need for society to evolve and grow into the place we all imagine in our dreams, but I don’t think there can really be any change, any true difference made, unless it starts with our children.
Certainly teachers are not the only important influencers in the lives of our young people, but it would be hard to argue that they don’t matter when it comes to shaping young minds and preparing the next generation for future success.
That’s why, as the new school year gets underway, I want to make sure that I honor, not just those educators who gave so much to me, but all of the teachers, administrators, faculty members and staff who are out there on the front line exciting, inspiring and guiding our future.
Connect with Brad – 229.405.7212 - firstname.lastname@example.org - @BradGMcEwen