This is one of ten shortlisted entries for our Things To Do Before You Die contest. We will try to make the winning idea happen.
The entries on the shortlist are:
"Inform The World About Lyme Disease" - Beth Ross
"Improving The Lives Of Dogs" - Emily Grossheider
"Becoming A Regular Size" - Will Holt
"Seeing Through Photography" - Jeremy Braun
"Live Like We're Dying" - Jonathan Winegarden
"One Wish Before I Die: Let Women Lead" - Claire Charamnac
"My Wish For A Buried Life" - Ashley Calarie
"The Dark Has Its Own Light" - Mary Rose Betten
"Thank You For Being A Teacher" - Caroline Cretti
"My Wish: To Be A Professional Pinup Model" - Alicia Leeman
Before I die, I want my mom to know that her work is life changing. My mom--Mrs. Cretti to her students--was also my high school teacher. More importantly, she was the public high-school teacher to what must have added up to thousands of students over the course of her 35 year career in our small, rural Colorado community. She stepped away from the classroom in 2004, but re-entered education in a different capacity. After years of teaching world history, she thought maybe she could help kids see the world for themselves. She started up a business from scratch that focused on college-counseling for local students, many of them hoping to be the first in their family to go to college.
And so, for the last three-plus decades, the education of the students in this one small town has been almost synonymous with the work of this teacher and educator--Mrs. Cretti, who also happens to be my mom.
It might sound like my wish has already been granted. After all, how could my mom not know how important she has been to so many? She gets proof every day: the former students, now middled aged themselves, who seek her out in the aisles of the grocery store just to say hi; hearing news that one of her current students, a first-generation Mexican-American, just got into one of the top school in the nation with full scholarship; the parents who call for advice for their young kids; or the younger teacher--a former student of my mother's--who now thrives at the front of her third grade classroom.
There is evidence aplenty to make her feel proud of her choices and her career. And yet, I see a look in my mom's eyes when people say, "just a teacher." Or when she reads about "teacher accountability" in national papers that seem to discount the immense responsibilities those in the profession take on each day with grace and dedication. As an alum of a prestigious New England college, she has many peers with fancier titles (included Secretary of State). Teaching is, after all, by nature not fancy or glamorous. Because to be a good teacher, one must not speak from a pedestal, because your goal is to have your students rise up instead.
So my wish stands: Before I die, I want my mom to know what all of her students know. That without her, their lives would be far different, darker without light her education provided.
But it's a tricky wish to grant. Because to do so would mean that she--and all teachers around the country--would finally know their worth. And for that to happen, the nation as a whole--from policy, to press, to the school environments themselves--would have to change, as well. Perhaps then instead of saying "oh, just a teacher" people would reflexively respond, "thank you, Mrs. Cretti, for being a teacher."