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Commentary: With school starting soon, be sure to thank a teacher

NEWPORT BEACH, CA, January 14, 2016 -- Sixth grade teacher Cass Powell asks for a show of hands of
Sixth-grade teacher Cass Powell, seen here in 2016, at Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach.
(File photo | Daily Pilot)

Did you know there is a certain smell to every classroom? I know it sounds gross; it’s not. Every teacher knows what I’m talking about.

It’s a reminder of all the past students who have sat in the classroom: the ones you worried about, the ones you knew would be successful, the ones who made you laugh every day, the ones who hid in your room at lunch because they had few friends, the ones who drove you crazy, and, inevitably, the ones who come back to see you.

First they come with their boyfriends/girlfriends and later with their kids. That’s just the way it is.

Teachers don’t talk about it, just like they don’t talk about the emotion they carry home with them every night with their homework — worrying about their students, worrying about their lesson plans and sometimes worrying about their jobs.


They also don’t talk about the excitement they feel along with the dread and, yes, fear when they walk into their classes that first day. You don’t believe they’re there weeks before school starts?

Check out the parking lot of your local school around the middle of August and notice the large number of cars weeks before school starts. Teachers!

The “experts” will babble on about education. They will write and talk about rigor, differentiated instruction, higher-order thinking skills, individual learning styles, experiential learning, child centered learning, and so on. All of this sounds so incredibly professional and worthy, doesn’t it?

May I tell you that most of these money-driven programs are just names of things that teachers have been doing forever. Inexplicably, teachers just take it all in year after year (not without that certain teacher smile and an occasional snarky remark).


In a few weeks schools will open for the new school year and those overworked, but constantly hopeful, teachers will lose sleep the night before the first day of school, with a combination of fear and excitement waiting to meet their students.

Angela Duckworth talks about grit in her book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” Teachers define grit. “Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it,” she writes. “… it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love ― staying in love.” Teachers stay in love.

Beside the word grit in the dictionary there should be a picture of a teacher. Believe it!

So, anytime you see a teacher in the next few weeks you might want to shake his or her hand and say, “Great job!”

SANDY ASPER lives in Newport Beach.