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Time for Moore: Home from school

We Americans ask so much of our teachers.

Jane Turpin Moore mug
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June: That promise-filled, sun-kissed month when most kids are released from school for lazy weeks of homework-free bliss.

At least, that’s how I experienced it for a few brief childhood years. Staring down a summer dedicated to bike riding, swimming, pleasure reading, jumping rope, TV-watching and sucking Popsicles was a joy to optimistic, seven-year-old me.

My mom, a public elementary school teacher, also loved her summers but they were never as carefree as the ones my older brother and I enjoyed as kids.

Often she taught at least one session of summer school, and she spent two summers of my early youth earning her master’s degree in education. Our house lacked air conditioning so the windows were wide open, begging for a breeze to move the sultriness from the tiny dining room where she sat at a round oak table writing (on a manual typewriter — this was 1972) numerous papers and projects.

Discouraging, scary news reports and images from Vietnam, where two of my mom’s cousins served, blared from our black-and-white TV. Sometimes I hid under our backyard picnic table (despite pervasive creeping Charlie) in a futile effort to escape the unsettling feelings President Nixon’s commentaries prompted in the pit of my stomach.

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On one occasion (May 9, 1972), my mom didn’t make it home from her Mankato State University class until many hours after we expected her because war protesters had blocked the local bridges; home was on the other side of the river.

But although we worried and wondered, she did indeed come home.

That was a blessing I, the daughter of a woman who was a faithful public educator for 43 years (and a substitute teacher for 20 years post-retirement), apparently too often took for granted.

Upon hearing of the recent assault-rifle attack on Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, my thoughts went first to the 19 innocent 10- and 11-year-old victims, then to their surviving classmates who waited in horror more than an hour for the nightmare to end, then to the two teachers who were murdered even as they tried to protect their students — and then to the children of those teachers who would never see their moms again.

Every school day for 43 years, my mom walked out of our house, typically pushing the clock; her hands were always full. She hefted boxes of Kleenex for her classroom, caged guinea pigs, books for her students, music to play on the piano she always managed to have in her room, treats for an after-school meeting with colleagues, an apple and yogurt cup for her lunch.

One thing she never carried was a gun, or any other weapon that could have been used for her self-defense or to defend her charges. (She always had plenty of scissors on hand, but what good would those do against someone intent on firing an AR-15 in your face?)

To the best of my knowledge, my mother never held a gun in her life, and I am confident that is the last thing she would have ever wanted to balance along with her book bag en route to work.

We Americans ask so much of our teachers, despite not reciprocating with adequate training, resources, support services, respect and salaries. (For international perspective, read Amanda Ripley's 2013 book “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way.”)

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Do we really have the right to demand teachers sacrifice their lives too?

At the end of the day, Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia just wanted the chance to go home to their own kids like my mom always did.

My heart breaks for their children.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Opinion by Jane Turpin Moore
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