We swarm like locusts: Noisy and fearsome. We roam the halls and invade classrooms, squeezing into seats with desks too small.

It’s Meet-the-Teacher Night(mare).

What do we want? To hear our judgment confirmed – our progeny are beset with genius. The burden will be great, but a grateful world awaits.

We want to know if the would-be instructors are worthy of the task, whether they have what it takes to draw out the natural wisdom with which our children are bountifully endowed by their Creator.


Truth is, most of us lost those illusions shortly after our newborns began to demonstrate their incorrigible likeness to us.

Most of us want some hope that someone other than we can do something to make our kids make it. Grades, test scores, college chances: That’s what we think about.

Teachers know what we want, and some give it to us. They go over grade scales, tutoring schedules, whine lines (sorry, phone numbers).

We could go home happy.

Then we go into the classroom of a teacher who makes us want to enroll ourselves. We didn’t know what we were missing. If education is more caught than taught, this teacher is contagious. We pray our kid isn’t immune.

The English teacher says he wants his kids to learn to read, to think, and to write. These are lifelong skills, but they don’t come naturally. They have to be hoed and honed. Same with math and science and history and music.

It’s one thing to pass a test on Macbeth; it’s another thing to spot your own murderous ambitions and realize soon enough to avoid disaster that the wages of sin is death.

It’s one thing to learn that for action there’s an equal or greater reaction; it’s another thing to return good for evil.

It’s one thing to know that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock; it’s another thing to understand that you too are a spiritual pilgrim in search of God’s destiny.

Teachers can’t make conclusions for our kids, but they can lead them to reach conclusions that must be their own. And the kinds of conclusions that count are the ones that shape lives in the world for good and for good.

Churches, synagogues and mosques do no less and some more than that. Soul shaping is an external work, but it begins in time.

We are taught who we are and whose we are, what we are to do with our lives, and who we are to do it for. Our best teachers care about those things and care about us.

Give thanks to God for teachers infected with that kind of spirit/Spirit.