World Teachers' Day

A Message from Dean Robert Bruce

World Teachers' Day

If you are reading this, it’s because you had a teacher. A person who, quite literally, taught you to read and write.

That one truth alone represents the broader list of reasons we celebrate teachers today, World Teachers' Day. In my humble opinion, while all professions provide value to our society, there simply is none more noble or important than that of teachers.

So important are teachers to our society, that the U.S. Department of Education website places it front and center: “Teachers are the backbone of our democracy – fostering curiosity and creativity, building skillful individuals, and strengthening informed citizens. A great teacher in every classroom is one of the most important resources we can provide students.”

We often discuss teachers broadly this way, “backbone of our democracy” and “most important resource.” But their impact is not actually broad at all, is it? It is, in fact, very particular. Each of us can likely look back on our own education and think of one or more teachers who made a significant, pointed impact on our lives. Whether through recognizing a talent, opening our minds to new ways of thinking, providing encouragement, or maybe even expecting more from us than we expected of ourselves, we’ve each had a teacher who has changed the trajectory of our lives for the better.

For me, it was a high school English teacher who encouraged me to write and saw promise in some really bad creative writing essays and stories. Through her support, I went on to pursue a bachelor's degree in English and then a Ph.D. in American Literature. That's because of Longview High School’s Shirley Williams. Thank you, Mrs. Williams.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Because of Mrs. Williams and many other teachers along the way, I am now part of an organization that is creating and empowering even more excellent teachers. In the words of Walt Whitman, “... that the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

From its inception more than 100 years ago, Rice University has been committed to the greater Houston area. This commitment is exemplified in the existence of the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, established for a single purpose: to extend the excellence of Rice University to our community. We do this by providing both personal and professional development opportunities. This includes, in no small part, our education offerings from the Glasscock School’s Rice Center for Education. Why? Simply put, we cannot be committed to our community without being committed to our teachers.

That commitment means appreciating the critical role they play in shaping our future, but it cannot end with a simple recognition of what is obvious to us all. Being committed to teachers also means we have to acknowledge not only how difficult a job they have, but how that job seems to be made more difficult year after year.

Here in Houston, we have all seen the headlines:

  • In HISD, 79% of students are economically disadvantaged.
  • Before the pandemic, just 47 percent of students were considered kindergarten ready.
  • In the first year of the pandemic, pre-k enrollment dropped by 23%.
  • Texas ranks 44th nationally in per-student funding.

To that, add over politicized and under supported, overcrowded and under resourced, overworked and underpaid; the list goes on. It’s no wonder that just last month, the Houston Chronicle reported that 77% of Texas teachers were considering leaving the profession.

And yet, teachers persist. They are there well before the first bell rings, and long after the last bus departs. They work evenings and weekends. They take on additional responsibilities in extra-curricular activities. They dip into their own pockets to ensure students have the supplies they need. They spend weekends and summer breaks participating in professional development opportunities to become even better teachers. We have the good fortune of hosting them throughout the year at Rice, and often ask them why they do what they do. The answer is almost always the same: For the kids.

These people don’t deserve a day. They deserve a lifetime of appreciation.

And beyond the appreciation and recognition of the difficulty of their profession, they deserve our support. As such, over the next several months, we will discuss this more in depth through a series of blog posts addressing why we must support our teachers, our public schools and our students. We will clarify challenges. We will propose solutions. We will ask questions. And, we will reaffirm our commitment, in both word and in practical next steps.

That is what we will do tomorrow, but today … today is a day for appreciation. So, to our educators, the backbone of our country and our most important resource, we simply want to say thank you. Know that you are appreciated. Know that you are valued. Know that you have our full support.

To show that support, as a first of many efforts to come, we offer the following:

If you are an educator: As a first step in reaffirming our commitment to you, we would like to provide the following free resource. Linked below are a series of meditations. These brief, on-demand guided experiences are designed for teachers specifically, can fit within your busy schedules, and are viewable as often as you like. Your self-care and stress management must be prioritized considering the awesome responsibilities you hold. We hope that this will provide you with a simple method to help navigate your days. Obviously, this should not be the only means by which you are guarding and nurturing your well-being, but we hope it adds one more tool.

Self-Care Meditation for Educators

If you are anyone else: Today, on World Teachers’ Day, think back on your own education and remember the teacher or teachers who made a significant impact on your life. The ones who came early. The ones who stayed late. The ones who saw something in you that you didn’t see in yourself. The ones who nurtured, disciplined and encouraged. The ones who helped make you who you are today. Think of them, and if possible, reach out to them with a word of thanks. I never got to thank Mrs. Williams personally, but I am thankful for her every day.

With equal parts gratitude and awe,

Dr. Robert Bruce
Dean, Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies

Read Next

On the Blog: Teachers: Our most important resource

Who we are: Center for Education

Impact Report: Best in Class


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