Thinking of becoming a teacher? Then let me give you a few words of encouragement. Maybe this article may seem a bit idealistic to you. Perhaps it is that this is my first year of teaching. Or it may be that I’m teaching kindergarten and nineteen of the most wonderful children on earth.
I thank God for the privilege of teaching in the Protestant Reformed school on Adams Street. The feeling of unity pervades the school and it brings teachers and pupils to a closer understanding. We’re fighting for the same cause aren’t we? Why, walking through these halls are our future ministers, teachers, consistory members, and homemakers. It’s a never-ending thrill each day to see our two school busses, jammed to capacity, come puffing up Adams St. hill and spill out one hundred and forty bus-riders choking with vitality.
To those who have never seen our Adams St. School, just a few lines of description. It’s really something of which to be proud! There are eight classrooms, all in use. The furniture and desks are all blond, our teachers’ lounge is equipped with a sofa, lounging chairs, lamps, table, and drapes. The office too is fully equipped. Much credit goes to our plugging Mothers’ Club. Although the kindergarten equipment came in installments, that room too is now complete with a sandbox, doll-house, drapes, blocks, a band, etc. The room itself is an inspiring place!
But I hasten to add that the building itself is just a shell—it’s the core that matters. We must be distinctive! And that finally rests on the shoulders of the teachers. It’s a responsibility, a challenge, a goal! There are of course, no hard and fast rules for being distinctive. We know that every subject should be permeated with that distinctiveness, and so we teachers must be Protestant Reformed. If there is none of that distinctiveness, there’s no place for a school of our own. That all Protestant Reformed children belong in the Protestant Reformed school is my conviction, but not my aim in writing this article. That matter rests in the conscience of each Protestant Reformed parent.
The qualifications of a teacher are numerous. A Protestant Reformed school teacher must be Protestant Reformed. He or she must also have an education— an AB degree if at all possible. That we have our own school is a wonderful thing, but the education of our children must not suffer. A teacher must be willing to work—her work is not finished at 3:15 PM, but continues until she is adequately prepared for the following day. Thorough preparation is necessary to hold the interest of the pupils—a big factor in maintaining discipline. A teacher must love her pupils; the cute things they do must amuse her and the wicked things they do must grieve her. It’s easier to remember the former.
The first day of school comes to my mind. Our first Bible story dealt with the attributes of God—how God sees all, hears all, knows all, etc. One youngster couldn’t wait to say, “Yes, but God doesn’t love everybody, does He?” Everyone shook his head “no” wisely. And we must remember not to love our fathers and mothers more than we love God”. Such is the influence of the home!
I remember too how Julie insisted it was the “birthmark” that Esau sold to Jacob and how Timmy said that Eli’s two sons were Phineas and Hofman! These things happen in every classroom and how can any teacher help but mutter to herself, “The darlings”.
Even in kindergarten there are love affairs—primitive, but real. One day Timmy (I don’t want to become personal, but his daddy is a former Episcopalian minister and his last name starts with a “Me”) asked me very confidentially if sometime soon I would change his seat so he could sit by Judy. He added in a whisper that she was his “girl-friend”. When I replied that he was too young to have a girlfriend he retorted indignantly, “Well, Miss Veldman, I’m FIVE!”
Children demand love and affection of a teacher. Before we have our Bible story, the children are grouped in front of me. A hand shot up not long ago and a child wondered if I couldn’t stretch out my arms and try to hug them. “Impossible”, I said, “my arms aren’t long enough”, to which David offered to bring two of his mother’s clothes poles to accomplish this feat. Sharon’s philosophical observation was that it was too bad I didn’t have an elephant’s trunk to gather them up. What the imagination can’t do!
The teacher must have sympathy, for often what she deems unimportant looms large in the dyes of little children. A cut seems a deep gash to them and a skinned knee seems a broken knee-cap. A teacher must have patience, for what seems a simple task to her may be a complicated analytical problem to their minds. She must explain until their inexperienced minds grasp the problem. Many other qualifications could be mentioned and the more we mention the more we realize how often we fail miserably —until God through prayer strengthens us.
There’s the rosy side of teaching: hearing clear voices singing “The Lord’s My Shepherd”, “The Tender Love a Father Has”, “Father We Thank Thee”, like a choir to your ears; the thrilling Bible story, the reciting of their memory texts, working together, playing together, the self-satisfaction one derives from their learning; working with God’s covenant children, watching them develop mentally, physically and spiritually, forming life-long habits—all of these make teaching a joy. There are things that make teaching a job — disciplining whenever necessary for one. For smaller children, a good talk is more of a punishment than a spanking would be.
But the undesirable aspects are erased from one’s mind by all the experiences that compensate for them. Every day is different, every child is a different personality. Heavy of heart will be this teacher one day in June when I see my children pass through my doors into the first grade. I sincerely hope my experiences may be yours and you too find that teaching is a joy