My wife Carmen Grider Luke retired from teaching public school this year.
During her career I have watched as the job has morphed from teaching and caring for kids to adding tons of state testing, more and sometimes insane administrivia, weird and meaningless school rules, and learning how to protect your kids from the threat of crazed gunmen.
I also watched year after year as any increases in her modest salary were gobbled up in insurance premium increases as the insurance carriers posted increasingly obscene profits.
Mostly overlooked, teachers were heroes for awhile after their responses in the pandemic shutdown but then villainized by a small but loud portion of far-right extremists who believe our public schools are full of demons who want to teach their kids critical race theory, expose them to pornography and groom them for sex trafficking.
While my wife never directly underwent this kind of mentally deranged attack, watching this strangeness unfold elsewhere has an unsettling effect on the entire profession.
In a very telling indicator of success, my wife never had any trouble from two groups – students and parents. They loved her! The first group because they knew she loved them and the second group because they knew she loved their kids. Upon hearing of her retirement, one of her former students wrote this:
“As a former student of yours I want to thank you!
Thank you for being the constant in my life. When my parents went through their divorce my 8th grade year you and Mrs. Perkins were my rock!!
Thank you for holding me accountable.
Thank you for being a mentor and a friend.
Thank you for letting me look after Kayden, he meant so much to me that I needed a Kaden too. (He graduates tomorrow)
Thank you for being a teacher I could go talk to and share my heart with, you never made my middle school problems seem insignificant to you.
Thank you for the impact you made on my life. I carry it to this day!
Thanks for letting me make green been casserole for the teacher luncheon. I think of you every time I make it or eat it still to this day.
Thanks for making me run… I told you I’d never do it as an adult… I have kept my promise.
For you to make such an impact on me, I know you’ve touched hundreds if not thousands of kids lives.
Thank you Mrs. Luke, for being you! “
So, there you have it. My wife is more than a success story. She and her fellow teachers are the glue that holds our increasingly fragile society together. I am more than happy for her and I look forward to watching her grow in her “retirement” as a business owner, property manager, etc.
But I worry. I worry about our future as a society when we finally allow enough low pay, bullying by wicked politically motivated groups, long hours, and general lack of respect that we don’t have any teachers left.
I worry about the public school privatizers finally winning and your neighborhood school being driven by the profit margin and not the welfare of your child.
We are already on the verge of a corporatocracy. What happens when the corporations run all the schools?
I do know that for 30 years my wife has been part of the solution, diligently building decency and community with one student at a time.
We need more like her.
Post Script: While teachers like my wife dedicate themselves daily over the course of an entire career to caring for kids, two teachers in Uvalde, Texas made the ultimate sacrifice for children. Teachers Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles died shielding their students from a gunman’s bullets on May 24, 2022. True to their calling, they dedicated themselves to their students until their last breath.