Over the weekend, I was hanging out at an area watering hole enjoying a late lunch and the opportunity to do some people-watching. While ensconced with my book and some chicken strips, a couple came in to talk to the staff person. They wanted a gift certificate for a football coach, as their son was just awarded a full-ride scholarship (worth $20K/year for 4 years). The parents wanted to thank the coach. They did their business and afterward, I listened to the cook and bar man talk about this noble gesture.
I sat there thinking about this little scene while I pretended to read my book. It was a wonderful gesture on the part of the parents. As teachers, we often get gifts from families (although not $75 worth of steak and wine). Genuine appreciation is such a rarity and all the more meaningful when you receive it as an educator.
But I was also bothered by the reaction of the restaurant staff that this student's success all belonged with the coach. When this student goes off to college, he won't major in football. He'll choose business or history or science or theatre or something else. What about all of the teachers in his K-12 career who taught him to read, write, and think critically---skills that will serve him in the decades of his life after his scholarship is gone? What about the teachers who inspired a passion for a particular area of learning?
I'm not treading new territory by suggesting that high quality teachers are under appreciated. And I don't want to suggest that this coach doesn't deserve a wonderful thank you dinner for his part in developing the athleticism of this student (or that the student shouldn't have a chance at college). I just hope these parents help their son to remember that he received a lot of support and gifts along the way.