A new book that demonstrates teachers' pride and commitment to their craft, also serves as a reminder of the extraordinary impact the profession makes on students and society.
"Inspirational Treasures," a whimsical and thought-provoking compilation of experiences on the joys of learning and teaching, was compiled by veteran educator Christine Easterling, past president of the District of Columbia Retired Educators Association and Frances Green Clarke, a former teacher.
Various members of the association's Book Writing Club solicited contributions and together penned the 107-page book which debuted in paperback in April. In addition to praising the art of teaching, it also serves as a scholarship fundraiser.
"There had been so much negativity in the media about educators," said Easterling, who retired after 30 years as a teacher. "We had rallies, [former District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor] Michelle Rhee was on TV and everything about D.C. educators was criticized," she said. "There are some wonderful things that both teachers and students are doing that [never appears in print]. As an organization, we decided to counter that with a book that would be inspirational – and one that would echo wisdom from the mouths of babes."
Easterling explained that most of the book focuses on comments from elementary-age students because no one can argue their points on education.
"Their minds are free and open to telling the truth, without regard to what somebody's going to think," Easterling said. "Society has not taken its toll on children's minds yet, so what they say, is exactly what they mean." For example, some of the students sentiments detailed in the book include, "My teacher is like a rose." "I want my teacher to be patient with me." "My teacher does good deeds."
A passage titled, "A Letter to a Teacher," written by student Shaira Corona reads, "Dear Teacher, you make me feel like I'm at home. Other times you make me feel like I am in huge trouble. I love you but I think you should be patient with me. You are a pretty teacher, and I like to see you happy."
Clarke, a retired teacher from Calvin Coolidge Senior High School in Northwest, weighs in with "Advice to a New Teacher." Some of Clarke's words of wisdom to first-time teachers include, "Be kind. Be prepared. Be fair."
Easterling, who taught in the District of Columbia Public School system for 16 years, also served as a director for the now-defunct Teaching Professional Academy, formerly housed at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School.
"I always say that nobody's asking the students what's going on in the schools," she said. "They go in and they ask the principals and they look at charts – but they never ask the children, and they're the ones who are receiving an education."
Easterling said they sought a contribution from D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, but due to time constraints she was unable to participate.
"We [sent out] a lot of letters inviting various educators as well as the [District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education] and Mayor Vincent Gray to contribute," Easterling said.
She also said that while she believes in education reform, it's not intended to badger teachers – rather it's intended to improve the public education system.
"Everyone – including parents has to be involved," Easterling said. "The first five years of a child's life comes [from what they've learned] from their parents. So everybody – even the community – is involved. Everything and everyone goes into the picture – and not just the teacher."