“I LOVE it!!”

“I knew you would! It’s the best colour and it’s so warm.”

There are squeals as two girls greet each other in the frigid air, their eyes dancing over the tops of their masks. One girl is rubbing the sleeves of the powder blue jacket that she loves and her friend admires.

“Girls, you’re blocking the entrance.” The authoritative voice of a “woman in charge” is stern, but her eyes are twinkling over her mask which is black with bright rainbow-coloured lettering: Behind every great school is a caring principal.

“Oh, sorry miss.” The girls move off together, six dutiful feet apart.

I walk past this tableau remembering how much fun it was to see my best friend on the first day back to school after a break.

There is something very calming for me about a school. The pristine corridors with floors polished to a bright shine, the curated artwork, the photos of past principals and the cabinet of trophies are tangible signs of how much the teachers and principals and custodians and others care about the youth in their charge.

Each presentation focuses on the positive achievement. Beside one athletics photo is a portrait of a group of young men with cocky smiles. When you look at that photo, you can tell that when these guys weren’t winning the city championship, they were likely up to some escapade that would turn the caring principal’s hair grey. But in the picture beside the trophy, they are caught in a moment of triumph and celebration. They learned what it meant to be admired and celebrated.

The best schools celebrate all their students in their corridors and announcements. The most important lesson we learn from the best teachers and principals is that each of us deserves to be celebrated. In the posts and photos of teachers on social media, it is possible to see how much they care about the youth in their classes and schools. The work they do is more than a job.

As you read this, are you remembering the best teachers that you had or that your children have? I wrote this because, after writing an Op-Ed for my local newspaper, I was upset by the many negative comments that I read about teachers in the online version of the article and on social media. So many people have the view that teachers do not work hard. Some commenters point to their summers off and school breaks. Why don’t people remember that, for much of the day, they are in front of a group of students, performing the specialized work of educating them? I work with youth also, but I don’t think I could manage to be pleasant all the time, the way most teachers I know invariably are.

After writing about March Break this past week and thinking about how important a break it is for children and youth, people’s comments made me realize how cynical people are about teachers and their work.

They didn’t learn that in school!

(Based on the girls in tunics and the boys in shirts and trousers, this could have been my school!)

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