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The teachers of character

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 last week to talk about his new book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. 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. Instead, I want to quote another self-described conservative who had a lot to say about character. His recent e-mail to me echoed the sentiments expressed by many readers who object to various states' legislative attacks against public school teachers. These letters and e-mails are not from teachers, but from those who love them.

This particular reader is a business analyst. He made clear that though our dads held similar blue-collar jobs, he and I grew up to disagree on many issues. He's not a fan.

But he does share my high regard for the men and women paid by taxpayers to teach America's children. He's been married to one of those dedicated public servants in Cleveland for nearly 14 years. He gave me permission to share the recent letter of apology he wrote to his wife:

Dear Honey,

I'm sorry. I am a conservative husband and belong to the tea party. 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 10 months than many people do in 12. 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 leaving dirty dishes in the sink (when you awoke) for your 4 a.m. work session. I should know you have to prepare. For not saying "thank you" enough for making the world and me better.

I love you.

We know that children watch and learn. And what they are sure to understand is that unlike some politicians, their teachers refuse to give up on them. Talk about a lesson in character.

© 2011 Creators Syndicate

The teachers of character 03/19/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 19, 2011 5:31am]

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