The curtain is drawn back for us, though at the time, it seems quite dull: long, hopeful hours in the classroom before the year begins, the school church-quiet, the board pristine. Teachers’ children know those empty hallways, most doors shut and dark, some propped open to reveal mysterious doings within. Windows frame summer sun and we’re resentful or resigned or delighted to be watching from inside, depending on our own preference for summer or school, sprinklers or crisp notebooks.
We claim that board, doodling in a corner that is ours alone. We stroll among the waiting desks, hear the other teachers’ first names—our mother, our father, gets to call them that! We pocket this scandalous knowledge, chests puffed. Such is the advantage of the backstage pass.
We know how classrooms are prepared. More importantly: we know what comes home. Forms and tests and scribbles fan across our kitchen tabletops. Sacks of ruled notebooks crowd the hall. If the parent is new at this, we see agony. If seasoned: routines in rock, the streams of students wearing away a little more each year.
We see the work behind things, early on. So as my mother’s daughter, on behalf of all the teachers’ children, let me say this to mothers, fathers, who’ve scrambled at home (Zoom-adjacent or buried in photocopies or totally neglected. Making it up as we go along in any case. Insistent at small elbows, prompting, scolding, regretting, hugging, fixing. Giving up and running through a field. Giving up and lying flat on our backs). I promise you: we joined an honorable club this year. Not through our skill, but through our sweat.
Like all children of teachers, ours will remember most of all the glimpse of labor, the draining hours we think they do not notice. Hands flung skyward in frustration; hard-working, bumbling love.
If they do not, then show them this.
Text by Katherine Stanley Obando, inspired by Emma Durán Mora’s piece about her mother, La Niña Gladys de Durán—and by her own mother and third-grade teacher, Anne Stanley. Our weekly #MediaNaranja series, which chronicles love of all kinds, is dedicated to teachers this month.