A lesson in character

This column appeared in the Missoulian March 18.


By CONNIE SCHULTZ missoulian.com


It's a question on a lot of parents' minds these days: How do we teach character?


New York Times columnist David Brooks was in Cleveland on Monday to talk about his new

book, "The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement." During

the audience Q-and-A, the self-described conservative was asked how he would design a high-school curriculum to include the teaching of character.


Brooks shared a memory of his own teachers: "I don't remember what they taught me, but I remember how they behaved." Many in the audience nodded and murmured in agreement.


Like most people, I easily could rattle off the names of several teachers who changed my life by the way they lived theirs. I'll spare you that walk down my memory lane.


Instead, I want to quote another self-described conservative who had a lot to say about character. To insulate this man and his wife from the current blood sport of teacher-bashing, I won't name them. He did give me permission to share the recent letter of apology he wrote to his wife:


Dear Honey,


I'm sorry.


I am a conservative husband, belong to the Tea Party and I voted for John Kasich. I have been married to a Cleveland teacher for almost 14 years and my vote let her down.


I apologize:


For letting people tease you about having the summer off and not asking them to thank you for the tough days ahead that begin in early August. I know for a fact you work more hours in those ten months than many people do in twelve. All those hours are earned.


For complaining that my Sunday is limited with you because you must work.


For making you think you have to ask permission to buy a student socks, gloves and hats.


For not understanding that you walk through a metal detector for work.


For leaving dirty dishes in the sink (when you awoke) for your 4 a.m. work session. I should know you have to prepare.


For thinking you took advantage of the taxpayers. Our governor continues to live off the taxpayer dole, not you.


For counting the time and money you spend to buy school supplies.


For not saying "thank you" enough for making the world and me better.


I love you.


In this husband's apology, we learn a lot about the remarkable teacher who is his wife. Her students sure are lucky. Every day that she shows up with such optimism is another day her students get a chance to believe in better versions of themselves.


Thankfully, this teacher is not an anomaly. Despite recent attacks on their pay, motives and even their supposed lifestyle, the majority of public-school teachers across the country continue to bring their talent and high ideals to some of our most troubled districts.


We know that children watch and learn. And what they are sure to understand is that unlike those politicians, their teachers refuse to give up on them.


Talk about a lesson in character.


Connie Schultz's column appears each Friday on the Missoulian's Opinion page.

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