By Tom Ehrich
Good teachers make the world better, even when they labor unseen.
If you doubt that, read this article about 29-year-old Spencer Lloyd, a music teacher at Manual High School in Indianapolis. http://www.indystar.com/article/20130530/NEWS08/305300036/Matthew-Tully-young-teacher-says-goodbye-Manual-High-School
It reminded me of how two young music teachers, Don Neuen and Marilyn Copeland, transformed thousands of lives, mine included, during their time at Shortridge High School, also in Indianapolis.
It reminded me of my younger and much better looking brother David, who for 30 years has given everything and then some to his students in Seattle public high schools.
Sometimes students say thank you, as Shortridge singers of the Neuen-Copeland era did a while back as they came from all over the country to celebrate their beloved teachers and to sing one more time under their baton. Both Don and Marilyn went on to great things in American choral music, but we remember them as teachers who believed we could do anything, and so we did, mastering the classics of choral music and performing with confidence beyond our years.
Sometimes students simply move on, transformed but not yet aware of it, maybe later taking credit for what, in fact, was a teacher’s gift to them.
In a difficult era for public education in America, many teachers dig in, ignore absurdities emanating from bureaucrats, and keep their eyes focused where they ought to be focused: young minds, young hearts, young lives. They give far more than their paychecks would warrant, far more than know-it-alls outside the classroom imagine being possible. They give without counting the cost, which, as Jesus said long ago, is the only way to make things better.
In the eyes of the good teachers, no lives are expendable. No lives matter more than others. All deserve a chance. And if that means compensating for deficits at home, as Manual’s Spencer Lloyd found, that is what you do.
“Working at Manual is not just about teaching,” Lloyd told Indianapolis Star reporter Matthew Tully. “It’s also about being a compassionate person. It’s about helping students become better people, not just better musicians. I always say that I taught life, and then when we had time, I taught music.”
"I learned what some of them have to go through on a day-to-day basis just to get to school, let alone graduate. So many of them have so many obstacles in life, but they don’t give up.”
Spencer Lloyd might never know how many lives he touched. If he is fortunate, a student someday will do what a grateful Seattle student named Monica at my brother’s school did when she spoke poetic words to honor a gravely ill colleague. My brother called it “a tribute to as fine a teacher as I have ever known in a poetic performance that brought 75 teenagers to their feet and tears to my eyes.”