According to the calendar, there are four reasons to celebrate today. Let’s start with the important one.
This is American Education Week, held each year since 1921 in the week preceding Thanksgiving. It is designed to recognize and to honor those who teach our nation’s children. Its sponsors include the National Education Association, the American Legion, National Parent-Teacher Association and nine more whose members appreciate the importance of our country’s school system.
Today, as each day of the week, is dedicated to a special group under the education umbrella. It is “Support Professionals Day.” That is a fairly new term in my experience. Back when I taught school in the 1950s-60s, our support staff consisted of librarians, secretaries, custodians, food service employees and administrators.
Now, the list is much longer, encompassing classroom paraprofessionals, school nurses and social workers, security personnel, bus drivers, maintenance staff and so many more, working together as partners in the task of teaching our young.
The task of education has been more difficult this year because of the presence of the Coronavirus in our lives. The work goes on, but it is complicated by the threat of illness and requires greater effort to help students learn.
In-person, online and virtual classes all require specialized skills. Disinfecting, restricting, masking — all these extra tasks — make schooling harder. Our educators today, like all essential workers, are warriors chancing their own health and well-being as they do their jobs.
I started out teaching high school English and Literature to classes of 35-40 students. I was on my own. Of course, the principal visited occasionally to observe and the coach was always available to give a reeking boy a needed shower, but we didn’t have the depth and richness of services available to educators today.
Our classrooms were inclusive. There were no separate classes for those with special needs. We got them all and we taught them all. That is still the business of teaching, but school mission statements have become much more sophisticated in these past 60 years. Now, schools aim to develop “self-reliant learners who will acquire those skills needed to be contributing citizens.” No wonder we need support staff. That is a huge order for any school.
When I think about supports for educators, though, I have to include parents, school board members and communities who care about schools. We salute them all today and throughout the rest of this week devoted to the process of education.
Today is also “Princess Day” and, not being an Anglophile, I have a bit of trouble relating. That is complicated by the fact that Walt and I had sons and never went through the princess stage as they were growing up. Our granddaughters do like the color pink and might wear tiaras if they had them, and I could teach them the “royal wave” with the revolving wrist. On second thought, I’ll pass.
It’s also Mickey Mouse’s birthday. He’s 92 today, and I’ll bet you didn’t know that. Born in 1928 as the star of Walt Disney’s talking cartoon “Steamboat Willie,” Mickey has lived 90 years past the usual rodent lifespan. I could wish him a “Happy Birthday” as I celebrate the last of today’s events.
It is “Vichyssoise Day.” I don’t mind potato soup, especially with a little heavy cream, but I prefer mine hot and not cold. Can we still call it by its fancy French name?
I’ll think about that as I look at the calendar for tomorrow. I like to plan ahead.